Instructions on Letting Thoughts and Feelings Be

From: The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh When a feeling or thought arises, your intention should not be to chase it away, hate it, worry about it, or be frightened by it. So what exactly should you be doing concerning such thoughts and feelings? Simply acknowledge their presence. For example, when a feeling of sadness arises, immediately recognize it: "A feeling of sadness has just arisen in me." If the feeling of sadness continues, continue to recognize: "A feeling of sadness is still in me." If there is a thought like, "It's late but the neighbors are surely making a lot of noise," recognize that the thought has arisen. If the thought continues to exist, continue to recognize it. If a different feeling or thought arises, recognize it in the same manner. The essential thing is not to let any feeling or thought arise without recognizing it in mindfulness, like a palace guard who is aware of every face that passes through the front corridor. If there are no feelings or thoughts present, then recognize that there are no feelings or thoughts present. Practicing like this is to become mindful of your feelings and thoughts. You will soon arrive at taking hold of your mind.

Instructions on Gratitude
By David Steindl-Rast, OSB Whatever is given is a gift—even the most difficult experiences and traumatic events can be seen as Wake-Up calls, and therefore gifts. And the appropriate response to any gift is gratitude. In the depth of our heart, we can turn fear into courageous trust, agitation and confusion into stillness, isolation into a sense of belonging, alienation into love, and irrational reaction into Common Sense. The creative imagination of gratefulness will suggest to each one of us how to go about this task. Here are five small gestures that can help you show gratitude and stay awake. All gratitude expresses trust. Suspicion will not even recognize a gift as gift: who can prove that it isn't a lure, a bribe, a trap? Gratefulness has the courage to trust and so overcomes fear. The air has been electrified by fearfulness these days, a fearfulness fostered and manipulated by politicians and the media. There lies our greatest danger: fear perpetuates violence. Mobilize the courage of your heart, as the truly awake ones are doing. Say one word today that gives a fearful person courage. Because gratitude expresses courage, it spreads calm. Calm of this kind is quite compatible with deep emotions. Join the truly compassionate ones who are calm and strong. From the stillness of your heart's core reach out. Calmly hold someone's hand today and spread calm. When you are grateful, your heart is open—open towards others, open for surprise. During big wake-up calls in your life, or in our collective lives, we often see remarkable examples of openness: strangers helping strangers often in heroic ways. Others turn away, isolate themselves, dare even less than at other times to look at each other. Violence begins with isolation. Break this pattern. Make contact with people whom you normally ignore —eye-contact at least—with the agent at the toll booth, the parking lot attendant, someone on the elevator. Look a stranger in the eyes today and realize that there are no strangers. You can feel either grateful or alienated, but never both at the same time. Gratefulness drives out alienation; there is not room for both in the same heart. When you are grateful you know that you belong to a network of give-and-take and you say "yes" to that belonging. This "yes" is the essence of love. You need no words to express it; a smile will do to put your "yes" into action. Don't let it matter to you whether or not the other one smiles back. Give someone an unexpected smile today and so contribute your share to peace on earth. What your gratefulness does for yourself is as important as what it does for others. Gratefulness boosts your sense of belonging; your sense of belonging in turn boosts your Common Sense. Your "yes" to belonging attunes you to the common concerns shared by all human beings. We have only one enemy, our common enemy: violence. Common Sense tells us: we can stop violence only by stopping to act violently; war is no way to peace. Listen to the news today and put at least one item to the test of Common Sense.

Relaxed Awareness Meditation: Breath
As taught by Kim Eng

Before you start your meditation, become physically comfortable. Sit on an upright chair. Alternatively, you may wish to sit cross-legged on a cushion on the floor in the traditional meditation posture. Sit comfortably, with your spine erect, and close your eyes. Begin to turn your attention inward and become aware of your breath. Don't try to change the length of the breath. Just be aware of the breath as it is now. As you become aware of the breath, it tends to change naturally and become deeper. Feel the breath moving in and out of the body. Feel the abdomen rise on the inhale and fall on the exhale. If thoughts arise, just notice them and return attention to your breath. If you become lost in thoughts, the moment you realize you have been lost in thoughts, you are no longer lost. Simply let the thoughts go and return to your awareness of the breath. After 10 or 15 minutes, open your eyes. Remain seated for another couple of minutes or so before rising to your feet.

Developing Still and Alert Attention
Adapted from: The Seeker's Guide by Elizabeth Lesser Set aside a certain amount of time when you can be alone and undisturbed. Five to 10 minutes is a good amount of time for those who are just beginning meditation practice; eventually you may settle on 20 or 30 minutes. Sit on a chair or cross-legged on the floor, and feel a sense of balance and alertness in your posture. Rest your hands on your thighs or knees, and close your eyes. Now, bring your attention to your breath. Take a deep inhalation and release it with a sigh. Relax your shoulders, your jaw, and your belly. Release anything you are holding on to and give yourself permission to take these few minutes for yourself. Staying alert yet relaxed, bring your attention to your breathing. Observe your natural inhalations and exhalations. Witness each in-breath as it enters your body and fills it with energy. Witness each out-breath as it leaves your body and dissipates into space. Then start again, bringing your alertness to each breath. In less than one minute your mind will probably be flooded with thoughts. You may become aware of pain in your body. Perhaps you will feel restless, anxious, or bored. You will begin to tell yourself stories about your thoughts, feelings, and sensations. Congratulations! You are meditating. The purpose of meditation is to become aware of your thoughts without judging or fighting them. Your goal is not to get rid of your thoughts, but rather to witness each thought as it comes and goes, like clouds passing in the sky. In this way, you begin to identify less with your thoughts—the "voice in your head"—and more with the still and alert Presence that is your essence.

Instructions on Labeling the Thoughts
From: Shambhala by Chögyam Trungpa As you sit with a good posture, you pay attention to your breath. When you breathe, you are utterly there, properly there. You go out with the out-breath, your breath dissolves, and then the in-breath happens naturally. Then you go out again. So there is a constant going out with the out-breath. As you breathe out, you dissolve, you diffuse. Then your in-breath occurs naturally; you don't have to follow it in. You simply come back to your posture, and you are ready for another out-breath. Go out and dissolve: tshoo; then come back to your posture; then tshoo, and come back to your posture. Then there will be an inevitable bing!—thought. At that point, you say, "thinking." You don't say it out loud; you say it mentally: "thinking." Labeling your thoughts gives you tremendous leverage to come back to your breath. When one thought takes you away completely from what you are actually doing—when you do not even realize that you are on the cushion, but in your mind you are in San Francisco or New York City—you say "thinking," and you bring yourself back to the breath. It doesn't really matter what thoughts you have. In the sitting practice of meditation, whether you have monstrous thoughts or benevolent thoughts, all of them are regarded purely as thinking. They are neither virtuous nor sinful…No thought deserves a gold medal or a reprimand. Just label your thoughts "thinking," then go back to your breath. "Thinking," back to the breath; "thinking," back to the breath…

Instructions on Working with Pain
From: A Path with Heart by Jack Kornfield Sit comfortably and quietly. Let your body rest easily. Breathe gently. Let go of your thoughts, past and future, memories and plans. Just be present. Begin to let your own precious body reveal the places that most need healing. Allow the physical pains, tension, disease, or wounds to show themselves. Bring a careful and kind attention to these painful places. Slowly and carefully feel their physical energy. Notice what is deep inside them, the pulsations, throbbing, tension, needles, fear, contraction, aching, that make up what we call pain. Allow these all to be felt fully, to be held in a receptive and kind attention. Then, be aware of the surrounding area of your body. If there is contraction and holding, notice this gently. Breathe softly and let it open. In the same way, be aware of any aversion or resistance in your mind. Notice the thoughts and fears that accompany the pain you are exploring: "It will never go away." "I can't stand it." "I don't deserve this." "It is too hard, too much trouble, too deep," etc. Let these thoughts rest in your kind attention for a time. Then gently return to your physical body. Let your awareness be deeper and more allowing now. Again, feel the layers of the place of pain, and allow each layer that opens to move, to intensify, or dissolve in its own time. Bring your attention to the pain as if you were gently comforting a child, holding it all in a loving and soothing attention. Breathe softly into it, accepting all that is present with a healing kindness. Continue this meditation until you feel reconnected with whatever part of your body calls you, until you feel at peace.