NB. My meditation practice is zazen – non-dwelling mind / open attention / being present. In the Soto Zen tradition guided meditations aren’t usually employed as a teaching method. Therefore, when I began working with mindful meditation groups I devised a guided meditation that I thought would be useful based on my own experience. It can be seen as echoing the Four Foundations of Mindfulness (Satipatthana Sutra): “contemplation of BODY, FEELING, MIND & MIND OBJECTS”.
Breathing IN – I know that I am breathing in / Breathing OUT – I know that I am breathing out
An ontological and epistemological baseline – acknowledging what we take to exist, to know, to experience.
Breathing IN – we sit quietly observing our embodied mind / Breathing OUT – we notice how everything changes and passes away
A statement about what we are doing – the process of attending to everything that we experience in our embodied mind in all its aspects: perceptions, emotions, mental constructions, bodily sensations, etc. Taking note how everything is in flux, process, transition, impermanence – ANICCA.
Breathing IN – we hear a fan whirring and the noise of traffic outside / Breathing OUT – we attend to each sound as a sound and let it go – sounds come, and they go
We attend to our perceptions of the world – sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touch. We experience them and accept them as they are, without adding commentary or judgement. We observe them changing and passing away – a stream of sensations experienced as sensations, always in transit, coming and going. MIND OBJECTS.
Breathing IN – we feel tension or discomfort in part of our body / Breathing OUT – we observe the tension, relax and let it go – the tension moves from place to place
We attend to the body, its states of tension, relaxation, comfort and discomfort – the ever-changing succession of aches, pains, itches; muscles tensing and relaxing; posture shifting and settling; skin heating and cooling; stomach growling and gurgling…. BODY.
Breathing IN – we notice how feelings and moods arise / Breathing OUT – we accept our feelings without commentary or judgement – feelings are always changing
We attend to the everchanging moods, feelings and emotions that flow through our consciousness – we notice how feelings follow thoughts and vice versa; we notice the context in which feelings arise – the causal networks that give rise to how we feel. FEELING.
Breathing IN – we notice how thoughts and memories arise / Breathing OUT – we attend to each thought, as a thought, without commentary or clinging – thoughts come, and they go
We attend to the ever-changing stream of thoughts, memories and mental images that come and go – the endlessly chattering mind – the habitual patterns of reaction, commentary, judgement and projection that engulf our experiences, and that seem to happen without our control or intention -the unmindfully churning washing-machine-mind. MIND.
Breathing IN and breathing OUT – we sit together quiet and calm, neither thinking nor not-thinking – grateful for each passing moment
NB. Translations of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, interpret the term, dhamma or ‘mental objects’, in many different ways. For instance: ‘Mental objects’ can include the other three Foundations; refer to perceptions of the world around us and the ways in which we organise and categorise these perceptions; and, refer to realms of theory, ethics, religious constructs and intellectual affairs [Walpola Rahula, uses the latter interpretation in his book, What the Buddha Taught].