Ecstatic Yoga Workbook
Mindfulness Lesson 2, Mantra
Ecstatic Yoga Mindfulness Lesson 2
In mindfulness we simply pay attention to the present moment with no judgement.
Mindfulness is when we are fully attentive and neutral to the present moment… what is occurring within our thoughts, actions, and environment. This state of witnessing is done without judgment… observing with full present moment awareness to where we are, what we are feeling, thinking and doing, as well as our environment and other’s around us. When we are mindful, we witness without reacting… with a neutral, open mind and heart. If we get gripped by negative thoughts, triggered by emotional charges, or overwhelmed by what we witness we witness our reactions knowing we are not neutral. We observe our reactions without judgment, always with the intent to simply witness from a space of neutrality what is arising in the now moment.
If you notice your mind has wandered, you are empowered to consciously bring your attention back to the present. As soon as you notice thoughts taking you away from the present and into the past or future you have become mindful. Mindfulness practice is noticing when the mind wanders and choosing over and over again to kindly and gently bring the mind back to presence. Presence is the practice of witnessing what is arising now… the thoughts, the body, emotions and sensations that are arising now with absolute acceptance. Be a witness to your own mind.
At any moment in time, no matter what the activity we have an opportunity to become mindful… to practice presence and alert awareness as we witness our thoughts, emotions and physical processes in a non-judgmental manner. Every moment in time offers us the gift of being mindful through presence, meditation, breath, self-observation without judgment. Practices like meditation & yoga assist mindfulness by helping us to bring our awareness to the present circumstances and inward to notice pratyahara (Inner aliveness & sensations.)
When we become mindful we become aware of the thoughts and judgments that may be running unconsciously in our minds. Until we are aware we cannot change, therefore awareness and being a neutral witness is the first step to transforming our negative thoughts, judgments, behaviors and reactions. Once we become aware of any behavior whether thinking or acting, we can powerfully choose if that behavior is one we wish to keep or not. We can keep the habits that are serving us and our life intentions and let go of all the habits of mind and action that are not serving our life intentions.
We already have the capacity to be mindful and present, we don’t need to change who we are. In practicing presence activities like meditation & yoga can strengthen our innate capacity to be mindful in our everyday life. Making mindfulness a way of life will cultivate the highest version of ourselves and humanity.
To notice without judgment that which arises without and within us allows us the gift of healing awareness. Sitting with what arises in the present without reacting to our reactions or others reactions, even when fearful and uncomfortable emotions arise ultimately allows these energies to pass through us rather than becoming mentally or emotionally stuck in our body and consciousness. Mindfulness allows us to release gripping emotions and repetitive negative or fearful thoughts. In practicing mindfulness when we notice a thought triggering an intense emotional reaction we have a choice to be present to what is arising with curiosity and love rather than judgment and fear.
Witnessing our reactions can help heal the underlying wound. You may ask yourself with love and compassion why that thought or emotion has arisen within you… allow your attentive awareness to understand yourself better. Sit with the emotions without reacting, you don’t need to push them away, please don’t make yourself or your thoughts and emotions wrong, you cannot release them if you stuff them back down. They are coming up to be healed and released… allow them to be fully felt and experienced with full present moment attention and know that this too will pass.
Mindfulness is the opportunity to return again and again to presence through focusing on the anchor of your choice whether the breath, a mantra, image, body sensations or simply witnessing what is arising now. Throughout your daily activities you may find it helpful to state what you are doing. “Washing dishes” “Changing a diaper” “Chopping vegetables.” In informal meditation it is helpful to bring your awareness to the five senses, begin to be alert to the sounds, sights, smells, tastes, sensations you are experiencing now. While in a mindful meditation practice you return to an anchor over and over again to enter into presence again and again. Play with mindfulness and find what works best for you to find the unending stillness and peace of present moment awareness.
Mindfulness and Sensations
The focus of our Yin-Restore yoga will be practicing mindfulness by sconnecting to inner sensation within the body. However, connecting to outer sensations also brings us into a state of mindfulness. While you go through your day, even a busy day or a day you feel especially triggered, when you catch yourself thinking and in the past or the future, bring your attention to the five senses and notice sensations. You may hear the wind in your ears, or the chirping of a bird. You may feel the breeze on your face or smell dinner cooking. When you eat taste the food as deeply as you possibly can. Use the senses to bring your attention back into the present.
Mindfulness and the Inner Critic
Unfortunately it is a human dilemma that many of us have a voice in our head that can be very unkind. Often the voice in our head will say things to us that we would never say to even our enemies. This critic whether mild or harsh gets in our way of experiencing our deepest joy and greatest confidence. This critic can hurt our relationships due to insecurity. This critic can stop us from doing things we want to do, being courageous in doing new things and living our lives to the fullest.
There is no special magical formula to rid this voice from our minds, however awareness is the first step. Often with just awareness alone we can heal and begin to change this voice from critical to empowering. It certainly takes effort, however until there is awareness we have no hope. We can only heal what we see is needing healing.
Consider that this voice is most likely a collection of your parents, those who raised you, your siblings, family, teachers, coach’s, society, friends and the collective consciousness. It is not your voice, it is not the Atman, the Inner Teacher because the Inner Teacher speaks from love and compassionate guidance not criticism. Also, if you can think of all the times your inner critic told you something and it turned out it wasn’t true, you can begin to see that it is not a reliable authority. How many times has it said, “They won’t like me” or “I can’t do that” or “I am not worthy or good enough to have that.” However, they did like you, you did do it and you were worthy to receive what you wanted because you did. If an outside authority lied to us even once we wouldn’t trust their advice, but we continue to believe this voice that lies to us ongoingly day after day after day.
This is our time to notice the voice in our head, notice it’s tone, it’s conversations and even it’s criticisms. Notice from a detached place, with the knowing that it is not you, nor can we know that the voice is speaking the truth.
Today we have two homework practices:
Notice the voice in your head
Notice sensations as you move about your day
Today we will practice a 30 minute mindfulness meditation with a word or mantra as our anchor. It is important to choose your anchor before your mindfulness meditation. A mantra can be one word like love, peace, freedom, stillness. It can also be a few words like “I am That” “I am Love” Sat Nam, Blessed Be. Make sure it is only a few words a very short mantra and easy to remember.
I invite you to choose your mantra now, and we will begin our meditation.
Sitting in a comfortable position with your spine upright, arms and shoulders relaxed, your head relaxed.
Bask in the body, asana
Bring your awareness to the entire body, notice the connection to the earth, the earth supporting your body, gravity keeping you safely connected to the earth.
Bring your awareness to the top of your head, your crown chakra, bring your awareness to your face, your chin, mouth, tongue. Bringing your attention to your eyes, the optic nerve traveling from the back of the eye to the brain. Noticing both ears and the ear canal moving toward the brain. Noticing the cranial bones in the skull. Bringing your awareness to the neck, the front of the neck, the back of the neck. Moving the awareness to the chest and upper back, the clavicals, scapula and shoulder blades. The arms, elbows, forearms, hands and all ten fingers. Fully attentive to the abdominal cavity, the lungs, stomach, intestines, spinal column. Concentrating your attention to the pelvis, hips, sacrum, sexual organs, abdominal, low back and gluteus muscles. Fully grounded in the physical body. Directing your attention to the legs, thighs, hamstrings, quadracepts, knees, shins, calves, ankles, feet and all ten toes.
Feeling your body sink even deeper into the earth, into relaxation. Bringing your awareness to the entire body, 360 degrees.
Bask in the Breath, Pranayama
Bask in Sensation, Pratyahara
Withdraw all attention from the outer world and bring the attention into the body.
Repeat your Mantra, Dharana
Release your Mantra and allow the mind to flow from meditation to the deepest stillness available within you.
Bring your awareness back to pratyahara inner sensations, aliveness, energies flowing.
Bring your awareness to the breath taking a few deep breaths as you begin to return from meditation.
Bring your awareness into the body… ground yourself in your body, the entire body 360 degrees, every finger, toe, the legs, arms, head, core of the body.
When you are ready gently and kindly open your eyes and feel a sense of love and gratitude toward yourself for gifting your entire being this mindfulness meditation.