Learning about Mindfulness meditation, it’s important not to mistake the instructions for the practice. “Being Mindful” isn’t entirely counting-breaths or doing ligament-stretching-yoga, although those things can indeed be jolly good fun. It’s useful to be aware of your attitude.
A bit of Zen advice on meditating is “soft hands, warm heart”. I’ll be using this expression in my class on Thursday 29 October in Maleny. It so beautifully conveys the attitude, the mental posture, that creates a mindful space. It’s a way of being focused that is healthy, a type of concentration that isn’t stressful.
Soft hands – we all know the difference between the feel of a hard hand and a soft one. Soft hands have an attentiveness, a sensitivity that makes the touch comfortable and safe.
And if you consciously allow you hands to become soft then the heart opens; your natural kindness activates, even if only dimly perceived. You feel better and you have more clarity: this is the feeling of the warm heart, and it is a good place to meditate from.
So when you sit to meditate ask yourself: what do my hands feel like? Gentle awareness itself will soften them up. Our hands become more sensitive, in their own time and over time. Do not hurry this, be with your hands as they experience softening.
Then we bring that same gentle awareness to the body, however limited it might feel. Our soft mental hands reassures the body and we become more still and reflective. And then the awareness of the body breathing can very easily take us deep into ourselves. Where does the breath end and where do I begin? It’s a blurry boundary. That bluriness is be a productive place to bring soft, gentle awareness. And simply be with what you become aware of. Experience the physical sensations, feel the emotional feelings, perceive mental thoughts; all with that gentle awareness, with those soft hands.
If we watch the breath with soft hands and a warm heart we will avoid many mistakes. With a warm heart it’s easier to avoid becoming judgemental or strongly opinionated on something, becoming lost in the maze of “should” and “must”. With soft hands we are sensitive so we keep being brought back to the feelings, the sensations, the thoughts that are happening right now. All of them happen before there is a story to explain them. Try and stay in that space before the story making begins.
And as we practice this way in mindfulness meditation the warmth of the warm heart naturally fills us up, like a cosy fire in a small house. It pervades your life outside of formal sitting and it becomes a bit easier to make it in the world, a bit easier to smile, a bit easier to see the things to be grateful for.