Although these meditations are taken from the Buddhist tradition, you do not have to be a Buddhist or to abandon your current spiritual tradition in order to practice them. These are universal practices, speaking to the human condition and helping us to become more aware and more loving individuals.
Mindfulness of Breathing
This practice is in four stages. After setting up our posture, we become more aware of our bodies and relax as deeply as possible. We become aware of the breath naturally flowing in and out, and then:
1. Count just after each out breath. Count up to ten breaths, and then start over at one.
2. As with the previous stage, but count just before each in breath.
3. Let go of the counting, simply following the breath.
4. Focus on the place where we first feel the breath entering and leaving our bodies (usually the rims of the nostrils).
Whenever we become aware that our minds have wandered, we let go of our distractions and come back to the breath once again.
Metta Bhavana Practice
"Metta" is essentially untranslatable. It means "love", "friendliness", "lovingkindness", and "empathy". It's an attitude of caring, concern, and cherishing. It's something we've all experienced to some degree or another. We experience metta every time we feel concerned about someone we know, or when we practice patience, or when we spontaneously help someone who is in difficulties. "Bhavana" means "cultivation" or "development", and so this is the practice of the "development of lovingkindness". It is based on the insight that all beings desire freedom from suffering.
The metta bhavana is in five stages. As always, we begin by setting up our posture, becoming more aware of our body and relaxing as deeply as we can. We become aware of our emotions, accepting that whatever we feel is where we are starting from.
1. Cultivate metta (love, care, forgiveness, etc) towards ourselves.
2. Cultivate metta for a good friend.
3. Cultivate metta for a "neutral person" (someone we don't have any strong feelings for).
4. Cultivate metta for someone that we experience conflict with, or for whom we feel ill will.
5. Cultivate metta for all beings capable of experiencing suffering and of desiring well being.
Walking meditation is an unstructured practice where we use the experience of walking as an object of awareness — being aware of our bodies, our feelings and emotions, our thoughts, and our senses. If our mind wanders, we bring it back to our present experience. This helps us to remain "in the moment".
You can do walking meditation as part of a normal walk to work or to the grocery store, or you can set aside some special time to do the practice in the countryside or in a park.
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