So let’s do the practices! The practices are so simple, sometimes when I’m giving these instructions, I feel like if I was giving them to kids, they would really relate to this. They do it already. It’s almost like we, as the adults, have to remember. Luckily, we generally have a slightly more robust attention span, so we can take advantage of our adultness.
So to begin with, you can be in a comfortable posture, your meditation posture is fine. You could also do this walking in the woods, but for now, we’ll just do it as a meditation.
We’ll start with sight. Just appreciating sight. You could look around, but you don’t have to, however you want to do it is fine. We’re just going to spend a little bit of time with the visual field. Notice the lights and colors. Notice the shapes. Notice how they feel.
Now, when your thinking mind comes in and labels something, “That’s a door…That’s a window…” you can think of this as the little brother of the family, “That’s a door!” and you can say “That’s right sweetie!” “That’s a bird!” “Yes, uh huh!” We can be super patient with it. We don’t get mad at our thinking mind when it labels, it’s just doing what it does.
We’re adding a little bit of feeling energy or awareness of feeling the sense of sight, so just try that for a little bit. Coming back to sight. When we think about it, it’s okay to think about it, we just come back to looking and the feeling of sight. Notice how different colors feel different.
How about sounds? Now we’ll bring attention to our ears and hearing. Notice what sounds are available in your environment, no matter how subtle. If it’s absolutely quiet you can rub your fingers together, but also just see what else is there. Notice what sounds are there.
When you label them with your thinking mind, that is totally fine! Then, in a nurturing manner, you just see that and return your attention, your allegiance, to the sounds. We’ll do that for a little bit. Sometimes it’s fun to think “How many different sounds can I hear?” You can play little games like that. Just be curious!
Now we’ll notice smells. You might think there aren’t a lot of smells where you are. That’s fine, notice even very subtle smells. If you want to smell something you can. Be playful!
Just stay with smells. If you label it, “Eww, I don’t like that!” or “Oh, I do like that!” just notice the thought as part of the space of smelling and come back to the smells.
Our minds have a novelty bias, so if there is not a lot going on, or we’re used to the smells, we might think there is nothing there. As you really open up and connect, though, maybe you can smell something, even if it’s faint. Again, being curious and playful!
I love it when I see dogs and cats sniffing! What are they smelling? They are reminding us there is something going on.
Let’s go to taste. You can also drink something if you have something. Just notice. Again, the mind might label “Eww!” or “Yum!” Just notice the labeling and come back to the sense. Really just enjoy taste. What is taste like? What does it feel like to taste? What is that experience?
Finally, touch. The body, and the sense of gravity, temperature, weight, comfort or discomfort, clothes on our skin. What does physical touch and sensation in the body feel like?
When the mind comments, again just noticing it as part of the space of feeling, no problem, just come on back to the feeling. Feeling the earthiness as we call it, or the sanity of gravity, the way we’re pulled down to the earth, the weight of our body.
We can rely on that sense of earth, being a part of earth, groundedness.
One of the typical curiosities that some Indigenous peoples have of people in the modern world is “You’re all up in your heads! You’re not earthy, not grounded.” That is so common in Indigenous cultures. That sense of earth is so good for our psychology, for letting go of endless speculation and information overload. It’s like, “Okay, come back down to earth.” That’s even a common phrase.
So scanning through the senses in this way connects us. Just notice how you feel right now. It’s kind of nice, right?
Now, technically, what we’ve done in our meditation, it’s quite interesting, we’ve changed the object of meditation from sight, to sound, smell, taste and then touch. So we had a moving object, and we came back to that object whenever a thought came in and labeled the sensory experience. We just noticed the thought and came back to the sense. That is very common to mindfulness meditation: you have an object, you have distraction, you come back.
In the next blog post, we’ll add another step to this practice, going beyond mindfulness and opening our awareness.
This blog post is part of an ongoing series:
Ecology of the Heart Part 1
Ecology of the Heart Part 2
Ecology of the Heart Part 3
Ecology of the Heart Part 4
Ecology of the Heart Part 5
Ecology of the Heart Part 6
Ecology of the Heart Part 7
Ecology of the Heart Part 8
Ecology of the Heart Part 9
Ecology of the Heart Part 10