This week’s episode comes out of my current experience. I am in physical pain due to muscular spasms in my lower back. I have sought some medical advice1, and I am getting better. However, I decided to record an episode looking at one way that meditation can help us when we are in pain or discomfort.
There are many meditation techniques that can be used for coping with pain, but this episode looks at the practice of tonglen, Tibetan for ‘giving and taking’. What I cover here just touches the tip of the iceberg of the practice, but hopefully this will give you a taste of what is on offer. In later episodes of the podcast, I hope to explore tonglen further.
In the meditation practice that I offer, I regularly give the instruction that if you are disturbed by noise, by stories, planning, thoughts in your head, to note the disturbance with “no judgement,” and return to the breath.
It is easy for me to judge myself. I put expectations on myself, how I expect myself to be. How I expect myself to show up in the world and on the meditation cushion. Acceptance is about me recognizing that I am human. That I have struggles and that that is OK - no judgement.
On the meditation cushion it is “no judgement.” With time that starts to seep into and impact our daily lives - I make a mistake and I accept that, “no judgement.” But there is rush to get there. For now let’s deal with our mind in the safety and privacy of our meditation practice.
It is very easy for meditation to become another thing that we are fitting into our daily, busy lives. We still engage in it sincerely with interest, and in time feel the benefits of our practice.
However, there is a simple action that I believe will help to take your experience of meditation that little bit deeper. It was something that I was taught when I started my meditation practice, and I still continue it today. This is the simple act of taking a few moments before and after your practice to reflect on why you are choosing to spend a part of your day in meditation. I call it Intention and I talk about it in this episode.
In this episode I speak about the benefit of having an overarching goal, a reason, an intention that brings you to your meditation cushion - Goal. At the same time I offer a word of caution of the expectations that we might bring to our individual meditation sessions - No Goal.
So there is a dance happening. On the one hand we have a reason to want to build and develop our meditation practice. On the other, how can we hold our intentions lightly, free of expectations? I explore this balance in this episode.
When do we meditate? How long for and what time of the day? And how about where? Do we just sit wherever we find ourselves, or do we have a place put aside for our meditation practice?
In this episode, I explore these questions, offering some perspectives to help you find what works for you.
In a podcast on the subject of meditation, it feels prudent to ask the question, “What is meditation?” I have covered this in earlier episodes, but I believe that it is good to revisit these subjects to become familiar with them. And göm, the Tibetan word for meditation which means “to familiarize,” is what I explore in this episode.
Meditation is a step by step process, session by session, breath by breath. Meditation is about continuity, each session building on your previous work, even at times when it feels as though nothing much is happening!
In this episode I discuss this step by step path of meditation by using the analogy of a recent experience that I had repairing my air conditioning unit. Please join me for today’s meditation session as we take another step along with our practice.
After just over three years, I am relaunching the Behind The Thoughts podcast. The last episode of podcast was published in September 2017…and then nothing, for no particular reason! 🤷🏼♂️
So today I am happy to be publishing Episode 41, with the current aim of posting an episode a week. Today’s episode contains a welcome back, a short introduction to meditation, a meditation session, and some closing words. I look forward to sitting with you over the coming weeks.
Taking care of the foundations of our meditation helps to build a solid base for developing our practice. With reaching the 40th episode I review some of the ideas that I covered in the early episodes and that underpin our meditation practice.
Sitting with difficult emotions or pain from, for example, a headache can be challenge. However, it is a challenge that is eased by the motivation, the reason that you enter into the meditation.
After a break in the podcast which has seen me moving house, I return to a subject that I visit from time to time because I believe that it is important. It’s that of keeping the continuity of one’s practice going, regardless of what is happening in your life.
This episode revisits the subject of goals in our meditation, diving deeper into the subject. I discuss how goals can not only be helpful in giving us direction, but also a hindrance if we bring the wrong expectations with those goals.
Lying on a doctor’s examination table, waiting for what seemed like an age for the nurse practitioner, made me (eventually) catch my mind as it busied itself with the day ahead. Meditation helped to focus, quieten and touch into the nature of the mind beyond the chatter.
Adding another tool to our meditation belt, I introduce Analytical Meditation in this podcast. Paired with the focus that we are developing by watching the breath, it further helps us grow our mind.
In this episode we delve deeper into the practice of visualization, exploring how it is more than about “seeing.” The podcast also includes a guided visualization meditation.
The opposite of a sleepy mind that we discussed a couple of episodes back is an excited mind that just won’t settle down. This episode looks at ways to quieten and tame a busy, buzzy mind.
After an unplanned break in the podcast of a little over 2 weeks, in this episode I discuss the importance of retreat. The importance of taking time for yourself, whether that be your regular meditation practice, an afternoon off, a weekend, or longer.
This episode starts with a recap of the techniques for managing sleepiness when we meditate, and then expands further on the technique of visualization that was introduced in Episode 30.
Sleepiness can be an obstacle to our meditation that can manifest as a clear tendency to fall asleep or just a general dullness in our focus & awareness. How we might deal with this is the subject of this podcast.
The commitment to ourselves that I spoke to in the last episode is a foundation for getting to know our mind and how it works, and through practice strengthening our ability to sit and be with ourselves.
Each time that we sit to meditate we are making a commitment to ourselves. We are showing up for ourselves regardless of arises in the mind, and we choose to meet what arises with compassion and impartiality - This is not an easy thing to do. Indeed it might be one of the hardest things that we ever do.
With the launch of an accompanying Facebook Group for this podcast, this episode reviews some of the ground that has been covered so far, reviewing the meditation space, posture and instruction.
Following on from the last episode, I take the exploration of emotion further, discussing how meditation can help us embrace those emotions that overwhelm or maybe even scare us.
As I and many old friends gather at the meditation center where I use to live, and where this podcast is recorded, to be close to my teacher who is unwell, I reflect on what meditation and quiet reflection can bring to our experience of emotion.