Train your mind to not go chasing squirrels in this 30-minute sit, led by Emma Sartwell at Naropa University as part of their COVID-19 community offerings.
This practice incorporates breathwork to settle the mind and body, and then about 15 minutes of sitting quietly, training the mind to follow the breath, in what is known in Buddhism as “shamatha,” or “calm abiding.”
Through shamatha practice, we cultivate the muscle of the mind to be stronger, more able to focus, more open, and more flexible. The benefits of this simple form of meditation are many: better sleep, more spaciousness, and rest-and-digest healing, to name but a few.
A 30-minute meditation session is great anytime, but I particularly like it for starting my day on the right foot (or the right brain . . . ?).
Okay. Good morning. I’m leading the practice this morning. I’m Emma Sartwell, and I went to Naropa in the Divinity program, graduated in 2014, and now I’m teaching in that program, teaching the Integration Lab. So, it’s nice to be back with some Naropa community, doing some practice together. And I’m thinking today we’ll just do a little bit of breathwork, and then mostly sitting quietly.
So, let’s start by just taking maybe three deep breaths to land in through nose. And on the exhale, if you want to sigh or make any noises. And then just make sure you’re comfortable, you have a good seat. And feel into whatever is supporting you (chair, cushion) and really landing here. Feeling your feet on the floor, your hands wherever they’re touching, and maybe even pushing into them a little bit. Taking our seat. And then we’re going to do some square breathing, which you may or may not know what it is. It’s breathing in for a count . . . we’re going to do a count of four, and then holding for four, out for four, holding for four. So, that’s the square. So, let’s go ahead and inhale. One, two, three, four. Hold, two, three, four. Exhale, two, three, four. Hold, two, three, four. Inhale, hold, exhale, hold. Inhale, hold, exhale, hold. And then we’ll do this pattern for a couple of minutes on your own time.
And then, if you’ve been counting four, try doing some with six.
And then returning to your normal breath. And just notice if there’s been any shift in your mind or in your body. Notice how you’re feeling, how you’re doing. And we’re going to do one more kind of breath. But see if your body is asking for any shifts or wiggles. And we’re going to do some alternate nostril breathing. So, this one uses the hand. And I like to use the thumb and the ring finger to block the nostrils. So, we’re going to block the left nostril and inhale through the right. And then hold it there for a moment. Switch. Block the right nostril and exhale through the left. Inhale left, pause, exhale right. Inhale right, pause, exhale left. Inhale left, exhale right. So, it looks everyone who I can see has the pattern. So, if this feels good, we’ll keep going with this for a minute or two. And if it doesn’t feel good for any reason, just drop it and breathe deeply.
And check in with yourself again. How are you doing mentally, emotionally, and physically? And we’re going to transition into meditation. So, make sure you’re comfortable and bring your attention to the feeling of breathing. And you might want to choose a spot, like in the low belly, in the chest, or at the nostrils. And you can have eyes open or eyes closed. Just gently resting the anchor of your attention on the breathing maybe 20%, so that you have this anchor but you also have space to be aware of everything else that’s going on inside and outside.
And if your anchor starts to get dragged away by some distraction, just notice that kindly and bring the attention back to the feeling of breathing.
It’s like training a puppy. When your attention runs off to chase a squirrel, you can just bring it back to walk next to us. With the same kindness and patience you would give a puppy.
And just bringing yourself home to the body over and over.
And if you feel like you could use it, giving yourself a fresh start, which means opening the eyes, looking around or looking at the horizon. Maybe even standing up if that’s what your body wants. And just for a moment, dropping the whole project of meditation.
And then bringing your attention back to its spot. And see if it comes with any new freshness.
And it’s okay to check in with your body, to make micro-movements. Notice if you’re comfortable and aligned. It’s easier for the attention to rest.
And bringing the attention home one more time. And then internally thanking your body and your mind for showing up for some training. And thinking of someone or something that you’d like to dedicate this practice to. It could be yourself or a group of people or the planet. And imagine that dedication, however that feels right to you. And then starting to return to your space. Noticing sounds. Letting light and color into your eyes.
Well, thank you for being here. We can bow out. And we can stop the recording. And if anyone wants to say hello and goodbye before we leave.