This winter, Center For Self-Care, in conjunction with Balanced For Life Yoga Therapy, offers four beginner’s meditation workshops in Wayne, Pennsylvania. The series is called “Cultivating The Heart.” The title recognizes the practice of mindfulness and meditation as a process. There is no sudden awakening or enlightenment. Instead, by gently tending the garden of our mind and heart, we set an intention that inclines us toward kindness and compassion. It just takes regular practice. We’d love you to join us. But if you can’t, you can find resources and recordings to try this out yourself at home.
Grant yourself a moment of peace,
and you will understand
how foolishly you have scurried about.
Learn to be silent,
and you will notice that
you have talked too much.
and you will realize that
your judgment of others was too severe.
-from The Tao of Wealth
We spend so much of our days analyzing, judging and comparing. This important function kept our ancestors alive 20,000 years ago when they were being chased by wild animals. It also serves a critical role in advances in the field of science, technology and medicine. But sometimes, a different state of mind is called for. A state where we use our sense to arrive in the present moment. That’s what meditation and mindfulness can offer.
The session was structured to engage our minds through brief talks, experiential practice and small-group discussion. These steps reinforce each other and deepen our understanding. Two disciplines we worked with were Mindfulness and Insight Meditation. In Mindfulness Meditation, we bring a non judging awareness to our experience using our senses and mind states as an anchor when we become distracted. Insight Meditation sits right next to Mindfulness, as it brings in the qualities of compassion and kindness.
At its simplest, meditation is a practice of returning. We find ourselves lost in thought, distracted by sounds or memories or just simply carried away. I offered the following aspirations for a practice of meditation and a practice of living:
Try the focused breathing practice below to get a sense of it. Just like training a puppy, our task is to pause, reset and begin again.
Meditation a simple practice but it sure isn’t easy. It’s radical because our evolutionary biology is based on avoiding pain and seeking pleasure instead of allowing our experience to unfold. Our culture reinforces that by emphasizing comfort and convenience over actually feeling what we are feeling when we are feeling it.
Just as we go to the gym to build physical strength, we practice in meditation to build mental strength. And it ain’t easy. It’s basically “failing practice,” right? We intentionally sit and allow ourselves to become distracted so that we can practice returning. So it will require one more thing: compassion. Without compassion, we may turn this work into a grim duty, a mechanical act that mimics all the other things we are trying to perfect about our life despite the utter impossibility of arriving at that state.
We worked with a traditional compassion practice that you can try out yourself. In this practice, we combine an image, a wish and repeated phrases to soften and open our heart to a deep compassion for ourselves and others. As we repeat these phrases silently, we slowly expand the circle of our care to include others, even all beings.
Join us on Thursday, February 28 at 6:30pm for our next session of Meditation for Beginners, Cultivating the Heart. Our focus with be Lovingkindness.
Want more? Register today for A Mindful Pause: Finding Refuge and Peace in a Busy Life on Sunday, April 28 at Bryn Mawr College. Choose from a morning or full-day option. This offering is by donation and is suitable to all levels of experience including brand-new beginners.
The recording below is the full workshop from a previous Meditation for Beginners class,
3 thoughts on “Meditation For Beginners: Compassion”