Zen Blog

This blog collects various internet feeds aimed towards information, experience and technique exchange in support of our shared spiritual journey.....

”Namaste - may the light in me, honor the light in you…”

A Mindfulness of Breathing Exercise with Neuroscientist Amishi Jha

My name is Dr. Amishi Jha and I am the director of contemplative neuroscience for the mindfulness research and practice initiative and an associate professor of psychology at the University of Miami. I’m a neuroscientist and I study attention in my lab at the University of Miami.

Wherever it is that attention goes the rest of the brain follows. And in some ways, I think it’s very important to consider this. What does this mean? It means that where you pay attention, makes up the moments of your life, it actually makes up your life’s experience.

In my lab’s work we really think about mindfulness not simply as a concept but mindfulness training as a cognitive training tool. To understand this more fully, we should understand what the workout is, what the exercises are that make it cognitive training. So, I want to review with you one very common and foundational mindfulness practice that’s probably present in every single mindfulness-based program available: something called mindfulness of breathing. This is what we call a focused-attention practice and let me just describe it to you.

In this exercise, the mindfulness of breathing exercise, we ask you to sit in an upright, stable, and alert posture. And for the period of time, we’re going to do this short practice (and you can do it for much longer than I’m going to do here), your task is to pay attention to the sensations of breathing, and be very specific about how you pay attention to the breath.

1) Tune into the breath-related sensations. So, once you get settled, with your eyes comfortably lowered or closed, you’re going to focus in on the sensation that’s most prominent to you tied to your breathing. Perhaps it’s the coolness of the air in and out of your nostrils, or the abdomen moving up or down, your shoulders, whatever bodily sensation tied to breathing feels most prominent, that’s what you will focus on for the period of this formal practice.

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A Breathing Practice to Stay in the Moment

Today we’re going to practice mindful breathing. The breath is the foundational practice of mindfulness, as it is the one experience we can have that is pretty similar in the present moment. Breath can be a little shallow or a little deeper, but the breath is always here for us. Thoughts, emotions, physical sensations, sounds, they come and they go like clouds in the sky. But the breath is always right here, right now.

Remember: To live mindfully, the breath is the key. Breathe in, breathe out release the stress and let it all out.

To live mindfully, the breath is the key. Breathe in, breathe out release the stress and let it all out.

As we being the practice of mindful breathing, focus awareness on the breath. And if you get distracted, just gently, without any judgement, come right back into the breath.

Repeat to yourself, “I’ve got my feet on the floor, I’ve got my spine in a line, I’ve got my hands in my lap, I’ve got my heart to the sky.” Gently letting your eyes close, so you can pay a little more attention. Focus on one thing at a time—and that one thing today is the breath.

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Mindful Women Meditating Together

Join us Thursday, August 8th for a free online meditation.

Mindful.org is hosting a diverse group of powerful Mindful women from across the country for an online meditation guided by author and mindfulness pioneer Mirabai Bush.

We’re sitting in silence, gratitude, compassionate acknowledgment, and respect for all the women who have come before us, for all the women who stand in their power with clarity and wisdom, for the women who struggle for agency over their lives, and for all of the daughters who will carry this movement forward.

Sign up and join us for this free online experience!

Sign Up for Mindful Women Meditating Together

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Mindfully Shifting Your Approach to a Task Can Shift Everything

By Leo Babauta

There’s a subtle, mindful shift that we can make as we tackle any task, enter any project, start any conversation, move into any activity … and this small shift can make a huge difference.

The shift is a softening, a warming, an opening. And that might not sound very powerful, but it is.

Let’s say you’re about to start a difficult task, and there’s something about it that’s causing you to dislike the task and want to put it off. The task is difficult, overwhelming, full of uncertainty for you. So you either run to distraction and procrastinate, or you do it but really don’t enjoy doing it. Neither of these is helpful.

So what can we do instead of procrastinating or disliking the task? We can bring some subtle, mindful, powerful shifts to the task. And in fact, we can do this to any activity.

Try it out with one of the hardest tasks in your todo list or email inbox, something you’ve been putting off or dreading. Get ready to do the task, then try these practices:

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Joy and Ease for Enlightenment

This is a 82-minute dharma talk with Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh from Hanoi during the “Engaged Buddhism” retreat. This is the third talk on May 7, 2008 and the talk is offered in English. 

Walking Meditation

How can we enjoy walking? How can we use breathing?

Every step is life. 
Every step is a miracle. 
Every step is healing. 
Every step is freedom. 

We learn how to use this gatha with our walking – whether alone or in a group.

Photo by Paul Davis

Seven Factors of Awakening

The Buddha taught of the Seven Factors of Enlightenment. Buddhism is about enlightenment and mindfulness is already enlightenment. Awareness of breathing is already enlightenment.  

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