By Cawood Fitzhugh
“Inviting our thoughts and feelings into awareness allows us to learn from them rather than be driven by them.” -Daniel J. Siegel
When we choose to try a sitting meditation, we are making a special time and place for non-doing in our lives. The regular practice of sitting meditation provides the opportunity to wake up to this moment, the only moment we truly have. Our lives move at such a hectic pace that it can become a blur of lived but un-noticed moments. It can be as if we are sleep walking through life, moving in a type of automaticity, not noticing how we really feel, what we really think, how we truly want to live. The days can become weeks, the weeks can become months, the months can become years and before we realize it, much time has passed, and we have missed most of our life.
Mindfulness is waking up to the present moment on purpose without judgement. It is setting our intention to pay attention and then focusing our attention and observing the underlying attitudes that show up. It’s about letting go – letting go of expectations and letting the present moment be as it is. It’s about developing patience and openness towards ourselves with kindness and curiosity, being aware of the tendency to push to achieve an outcome or to resist those experiences that are unpleasant. It’s about the tendency to judge. While judging is always going to occur, noticing this tendency by being more aware of it provides the possibility for the unforced freedom of choice. A choice to be kinder with ourselves, a choice to befriend ourselves in healthier ways. Sitting meditation provides us with an opportunity to show up to ourselves, just as we are, and be in wiser relationship with ourselves through greater awareness with compassion.
Mindfulness is learning to flex our muscles of awareness. Sitting meditation is one of the formal practices that help us cultivate awareness. We all know how to sit but we are not always aware we are sitting! Sitting meditation encourages us to move from doing to just being, providing an opportunity to uncover what is here, in this moment, bringing a gentle curiosity to whatever arises. It may be a thought, or a physical sensation, an emotion, a sound or even something as automatic as the breath. Allowing an investigation of what arises with kindness, noticing when judgements arise and what underlying attitudes are present can be enlightening and empowering. Negative thinking? Review and regrets of the past? Frets about the future? When we pause, we give ourselves an opportunity to notice what we push away or resist, allowing more opportunities to be in wiser relationship with ourselves, by exploring our own lives as they unfold moment by moment. We can rediscover the changing nature of things and the ability to be fully awake and in partnership with our lives. While we may be sitting and still on the outside, we are dropping into a very potentially rich and active adventure in awareness.
Making a time to sit regularly, whether a short moment daily or a longer moment weekly, allows us to see our own life’s curriculum, tapping into a wealth of inner strength and wisdom, seeing new possibilities and freedoms.
A number of 15-minute sitting meditations are available on the Mindfulness Center website at Mindful Pause Recordings.