Sitting Meditation: Open Awareness with a focus on the Awareness of Thoughts

Introduction: In the formal sitting meditation practice, we are taking a seat right in the middle of our lives. We are intentionally bringing ourselves into a direct and intimate relationship with the present moment and what is arising in it for us — as much as possible without judging.
In this practice, we have the opportunity to expand our attention to explore body sensations, sounds and thoughts and, when we are ready, to open to all of these — to the full range of events within and without as they move and change, appear and disappear in awareness.
We are taking time to become more familiar— moment by moment — with who we are, beyond all the wanting and having and doing.
In a sense, this practice is an expression of our own unique presence in the world.
So it is helpful to come to this practice with a sense of kindness and care for yourself.

31min – MBSR Guided Meditation: Awareness of Thoughts

Intention – Coming back to the body and the present moment, exploring looking AT thoughts rather than FROM thoughts. Practising relating to thoughts similar to how we relate to sounds – seeing their arising and passing.
Attention – Noticing recurring patterns in the mind and body in relationship to the thoughts, how they develop and play out.
Attitudes – Non-judgment, kindness, opening to a sense of acceptance, if that feels ok for you right now, having a beginners mind about the experiences unfolding.

Let’s begin by finding a comfortable position seated in a chair or on a cushion
perhaps feeling the ground beneath our feet, sitting bones making contact with the seat
spine growing tall
head balanced on top of the spine
allowing the hands to rest on the lap or thighs, whichever feels most nurturing – grounding
making a choice to allow ourselves to be exactly as we are in this present moment
finding a point of balance where gravity is holding us comfortably upright,
without strain or striving.
Allowing the body to become still
not leaning into or moving away from anything, simply present with – and open to – what is happening now as we encounter it
As we practice this meditation
if at any time sensations in the body become too uncomfortable
thoughts or emotions arise that are too difficult
remembering that it is always possible to come back to your anker
to the rhythm of our breath as a safe place, a retreat to rest in
practising coming back to this moment
until we are ready to venture again into the meditation
just tuning in and listening to the sound of my voice once again
3/20 5/30
Breath.
When it feels right, moving the awareness and attention to gently notice the movement of the breath
As such a constant feature of life, it is easily ignored
taking time with it now
actually feeling the sensations as the breath enters the body and leaves the body of its own accord
allowing it to move through its cycle of in-breath and out-breath – without controlling.
Simply breathing in – and out
noticing that there is a beginning – a middle – and an end of the in-breath
and a beginning – a middle – and an end of the out-breath
Perhaps sensing the rise and fall of your belly
Maybe, placing your hands on your belly
feeling the movement of the breath – the rhythm
just letting it roll in – and roll out
simply riding the waves of breath – from moment to moment
If the attention has wandered from the breath, gently but firmly practising coming back
making the breath the centre, the focus of attention again
breathing in
breathing out
Body.
And now, when you are ready, expanding your attention beyond the breath to include the entire body sitting here.
Becoming aware of sensation in the body
Perhaps sensations of contact with the chair or cushion
Perhaps the touch of clothes on your body or how your hands feel in the moment.
Sensations of temperature.
Being present with any sensations as they arise.
Noticing how sensations sometimes stay for just a short while
and how other times they linger
Noticing how they change in intensity, shift, and pass away as new sensations arise
like the breath, they have a beginning, middle, and end
Noticing nuances of sensation
Perhaps resistance or bracing
and, as much as possible
practising simply observing
perhaps softening – noticing that sensations change
Staying in touch with sensations in the body as you sit
If the attention wanders, noticing and making a choice to bring it back with care and kindness to the awareness of the body and the breath
Sounds.
Now, allowing your attention to shift from the breath and the body to the sense of hearing
Not seeking sound, rather receiving whatever is available
from within the body and from the environment near and far
becoming particularly aware of hearing
Noticing how the awareness receives sounds without effort
How some sounds are short – and some are long
How they are varied and textured
How there is space between sounds
Noticing how the mind labels sounds – has opinions about sounds – judges sounds – likes and dislikes certain sounds
Noticing any desire to move away from some sounds and towards others
as much as possible, making space in which sounds can be experienced as they are
Noticing how sensations and sounds sometimes stay for just a short while and how other times they linger
changing in intensity
shifting, and passing away as new sensations and sounds arise
awareness that just like the breath, they have a beginning – middle – and an end
Thoughts.
And when ready, allowing the attention to shift from the changing patterns of breath, sensations and sounds,
and letting it expand this time into thinking – the realm of thought
practising seeing thoughts – not as distractions, or truths
but rather bringing our awareness to the thinking process itself
Noticing how thoughts just like sensations and sounds arise, stay for a while, and then dissolve
they too have a beginning – middle, and an end
So practising looking at thought
noticing when we get lost in the content of the thoughts
allowing thought to be in the foreground of awareness
with sound, body sensations and the breath in the background
maybe gently saying – hello thought – goodbye thought
Practising looking at thoughts rather than from thoughts
Practising noticing thoughts
perhaps labelling thoughts – “planning” – “worrying” – “justifying” – “remembering.”
gaining perspective
practising looking at thoughts rather than from thoughts
If we notice we are carried away in the current of thinking
practising coming back to observing thoughts as separate elements that come and go
gently coming back to the anchor of the breath and the body sitting here
Thoughts moving through an open and spacious mind
there is no need to try to make thoughts come or go
Just practising watching them arise naturally
Labelling them
or briefly greeting them
saying hello thought – goodbye thought
and letting them pass away
10/20, 15/30
Remembering the intention of the practice: looking AT thoughts rather than FROM thoughts,
Watching them arrive – stay for a while – then leave
IMPORTANT TIMINGS –
● Short metaphor followed by a 50 seconds pause,
● Coming back and grounding with body and breath followed by a 15-second pause
● Introduce the 2nd metaphor, repeat the above

Metaphor: Leaves on a stream
Maybe seeing thoughts as leaves on a stream.
We are sitting on a rock in the middle of a stream,
looking at the water
and the leaves (our thoughts) are falling from overhanging branches,
dropping onto the water.
We are just watching the leaves as they pass by
A leave – a thought appears
We follow it a little down the stream
and let go as it flows out of our view
Practising looking at thoughts rather than from thoughts
(50-second pause)

Metaphor: Cinema Screen
Some find it helpful to bring awareness to thoughts in the mind
in the same way that they might if the thoughts were projected on the screen at the cinema.
As we sit, watching the screen, all sorts of images are flashing across the screen; we practice simply noticing each image as it comes and goes.
It’s easy to forget that these are just images and get sucked into the story.
Practising looking at the screen
Staying aware that we are looking at a screen
Practising looking at thoughts rather than from thoughts
(50-second pause)

Gently coming back to the body sitting here
breathing
perhaps following the breath rolling in
and following the breath rolling out
Bringing the attention gently back
(15-second pause).

Metaphor: Sky and Clouds.
The sky is like our mind
the clouds are the various thoughts coming and going.
Some may be small white clouds,
while others may be big black ones carrying thunder and lightning
Some may even be so big that at times they cover the whole sky
Though we know that the sky – the sun, moon and stars – are there behind the clouds
Practising looking at thoughts rather than from thoughts
(50-second pause)

And now gently coming back to the body sitting here breathing
practising following the breath rolling in
and following the breath rolling out
The body moving with the breath
(15-second pause).
15/20 24/30
Moving now, into an Open Awareness
Not choosing to bring the attention to anything in particular
Simply sitting here, fully aware of whatever is presenting itself in each moment
Observing whatever presents itself to you at the moment
Being spacious with whatever arises
Sitting in stillness with whatever comes and goes
Being present with it all
Being here – now
Practising opening to the totality of your experience
17/20 27/30
Expanding
bringing the attention to include the entire body
from the soles of the feet to the top of the head
being present to the totality of the experience of sitting here at this moment
sensing the body sitting here
breathing in
breathing out
in this moment
exploring the experience of our very alive bodies (which includes our minds)
practising allowing ourselves to be exactly as we are
in this moment
aware of the thoughts, the sensations and the breath
And now grounding ourselves
earthing ourselves
breathing in
and breathing out
down into the ground
breathing in
breathing out,
down into the earth
earthing ourselves
Being grateful to ourselves that we took the time to practice
If it feels appropriate
perhaps taking a moment bringing the intention of being present in our lives to mind,

practising being mindful of the whole of our experience

remembering that practising in this way helps create a wider, deeper, more open way of being in our life
in which we can see more clearly and make more conscious choices for health – well-being – and freedom

Now gently turning the awareness to sounds in the room
the sounds outside of the room
becoming aware of the room around you
maybe starting to move and stretch in any way that feels good right now
Slowly opening the eyes, allowing the light in

The meditation is now complete.