How to Meditate: Meditation 101 for Beginners
10 Science-Backed Benefits of Meditation
What is Meditation?
How to Meditate: Meditation 101 for Beginners
10 Science-Backed Benefits of Meditation
What is Meditation?
Benefits of Mindfulness: Mindful Living Can Change Your Life
Mindfulness 101: A Beginner's Guide
In this interview, Shamash shares how to create a strong foundation for your mindfulness practice and advice for those who are just starting up a home meditation practice.
I'm your host Melli O'Brien and
I'm really excited to introduce you
to today's guest, Shamash Alidina.
Shamash is a best-selling author,
speaker and mindfulness teacher.
He's the author of the
Mindfulness For Dummies series.
And he's just released a new book
called the Mindful Way Through Stress.
Shamash runs courses and workshops on
mindfulness and speaks about mindfulness
at conferences around the world.
And he's been teaching since 1998.
So it's a really long time to be teaching.
And he's also now a
teacher trainer as well.
So Shamash, thank you so much for
sharing your time with us for the summit.
Thank you very much and I'm
really excited to be here.
So there are probably people who are,
who are watching this summit that have
been practicing mindfulness for a while.
And then there's going to be kind of
the other end of the spectrum, who
are people who really maybe never
even heard of mindfulness before.
So for those people, what would you,
how would you define mindfulness?
Yeah, well, one of the interesting things,
when I was first writing this book, it's
first book, Mindfulness for Dummies, I
thought the easiest bit would be to write
what's the definition of mindfulness.
So I looked at one book and
it had the one definition, at
another book, another definition.
So it almost became, what I discovered
is that mindfulness is more like a
rainbow with different people seeing it
in different angles, but there's certain
commonalities that are really important.
So the first aspect of when people
ask me what mindfulness is, is it's
really important in that, in the
sense of a present moment awareness.
So if you say to people, you know,
your normal average person has never
heard of mindfulness, present moment
awareness, they'd be like, yeah.
I think I know what you mean.
But what the research has found is
that most people, at roughly half
the amount of time that we go around
in our normal everyday activities,
we're thinking about stuff.
And the stuff we're normally
thinking about is either about
the past or about the future.
And in fact, all the stuff we're
thinking about the future is just
stuff that's projected from the past.
We have all these experiences
that we've had in our lives.
We've all lived for
different lengths of time.
And we've got all these memories that
are kind of locked into our head.
And we're either thinking about the stuff
that's happened or we're projecting,
using those memories, to guess what's
going to be happening in the future.
Now to, to be caught up for so much
time thinking about these things
means that we, we lose our ability to
actually experience the here in now.
And what mindfulness does through
different kinds of concepts and especially
through doing different exercises and
meditations is to learn to be more in
the here and now, the present moment.
So for example, as I'm speaking, the
more mindful you are, the more likely
you are to appreciate when your mind
kind of goes to these other thoughts
and actually says, hang on a minute,
let's just, just turn the attention
back to what Shamash is saying.
Or if not, if you know, if you're not
interested in what I'm saying, then maybe
just noticing the sensations of your body
as you're sitting here, or the sounds
of the bus or the computer or whatever.
But the sense of being in the
here and now is a really, really
important aspect of mindfulness.
Now most people kind of just stop there.
They think of mindfulness as okay.
Just being more in the
here and now more present.
But the second really, really
important aspect of mindfulness is
to what I call mindful attitudes.
So it's about the way you pay
attention to the present moment.
Because if you can have someone like,
you know, a sniper, somebody who wants
to kind of kill someone or someone
who's in the army or something, that
could be really mindful, in the sense
of very here and now, very present.
And they could just be going around
shooting and killing people and
you can say, Oh, that's nice.
But he was just so mindful of
the way he killed that person.
It doesn't sound like, like the kind
of thing that mindfulness is all about.
It's much more about bringing also these
attitudes of kindness, sense of warmth,
sense of affection, sense of friendliness.
So, so mindfulness is about the
present moment awareness, but also
these, these warm attitudes and
those attitudes are really important
when we start looking inwards.
So when you start noticing your bodily
sensations, especially if they're painful
or emotional feelings, again, especially
if they're difficult and also thoughts.
If we've got kind of negative thoughts
and we don't want to have them,
then the automatic reaction of most
people would be to try to fight them,
to push them away, like, Oh no, I
don't want to have that thought.
I don't want to think about
that really horrible thing.
But unfortunately the more negative you
are towards that, the stronger it gets.
It kind of bounces back
to you like a spring.
Whereas if you bring this like,
Oh, that's okay, that's fine.
Let me be friendly to it.
And you learn to build this, this new
type of attitudes, this friendly kind
of attitude, then it seems to soften.
It seems to dissolve.
Yeah, the present moment becomes
a pleasant moment to be in.
So if you were to describe the actual
experience in, in your own direct
experience of what it's like to, to
shift attention in a mindful way.
So let's say you were in autopilot mode
and then you shift into mindfulness.
You would just to kind of like take
that little snapshot snippet of time,
like three seconds or five seconds.
How would you describe
that actual experience?
That direct experience?
That's a really interesting question.
Well, the thing is that our
mind does kind of always go into
autopilot and always comes out.
So people who've been practicing
mindfulness and mindfulness meditation
sometimes get the sense of frustration
that the mind keeps going off to thoughts.
It keeps going off to thoughts.
But the thing is that although it
does, yes, goes off on thoughts, it
also always comes back at some point.
We don't, we're not caught
up in autopilot forever.
There's always some point
where it always comes back too.
Otherwise you'd never know you
were on autopilot, would you?
So yeah, it always goes on.
And then yeah, you notice
that it's gone off.
And the tendency in mindfulness is,
first of all, when people first learn
mindfulness is that they actually kind
of are a bit harsh to themselves and
are not very friendly to themselves.
Like, wow, my mind's wandered off.
Let me bring it back.
They didn't bring it back.
And then gradually over time, people
learn to be a bit more friendly.
So just to answer your
question, what's it like?
It's, it's actually an
experience that everyone's had.
Like, for example, you're sitting in
the classroom, when you, as a child
and you're looking out the window
and your mind is wandering off.
And then at some point, either the teacher
would say something, that's usually the
way it happens, but if not, then you just,
you know, you just kind of get bored of
what you're looking and you just turn
back and you look at the, the blackboard
or what the teacher's talking about.
And the mind has gone from being caught
up in this dream world to being present.
So it's actually a thing that's
naturally happening to us all
the time, going off and coming
back, going off and coming back.
In mindfulness, what we're doing is
that we kind of are trying to lean our
mind towards more coming into the here
and now, rather than that fantasizing.
And although we, although most
people think that, ah it's so nice
to kind of dream and fantasize,
and it seems very pleasant.
The thing is that once you learn to
practice mindfulness and you do it more
often and you do it with this friendly
attitude, the present moment becomes
actually a really enjoyable place.
And it actually has much more depth and
it can go deeper and deeper and deeper.
But as I was saying, that in mindfulness,
when you start learning these mindfulness
exercise, what most teachers, meditation
teachers say that, you know, it's the
mind's tendency to wander off and you
bring it back and you bring it back
with friendliness and you bring it back
with kindness and that's the next level.
But what I've been exploring and
discovering, over actually just the last
few months, is that I think there's a
third aspect to it as well, which is
once it's, which is to actually turn
towards this, this process of what's
automatic pilot and actually think about
actually, why is my mind wandering and
to start looking at the causes of that.
And so if you start bringing that same
sense of kindness and friendliness we
were talking about to mind wandering
or to your relationship to your
mind itself, it really starts to
kind of settle and calm down a lot.
So what we're trying to do is not
be the enemies with autopilot or
with the mind, but actually to
let the mind be your best friend.
I like that.
So, for example, let's say if
you're sitting on a park bench with
your friend and your friend starts
talking about something different.
You just say, Oh, that's
Please come back to what I'm doing
now, because I'm looking at this tree.
And then your mind says, Oh yeah,
but you know, I was playing this
computer game the other day.
It was really fun.
And you're like, thank you very much.
Let's bring it back.
After a while, your friend
would get really annoyed.
And I think this is where mindfulness
is going with a lot of teachers and I
in the past, as well, is that, Oh yeah,
your mind goes off, bring it back.
Your mind goes off, bring it back.
But after a while that can actually
get quite frustrating and it's kind
of frustrating for the mind as well.
And we're kind of pretending that's okay.
But what I've been doing in the last
six months, which I find very, very
effective, which is that if the mind does
want to wander off into something else.
Then I say, Oh, okay, mind
you know, you're my friend.
We're together in this.
Where do you want to go?
What do you want to think about?
And what I've found is that very soon,
within seconds actually, it's like, Oh,
you're not trying to control me anymore.
You're letting me go off.
And yet you're paying
attention to what I'm saying.
And this is, the mind is like, actually.
Yeah, let's, let's just, you
know, let's just be here.
Let's feel the body and
let's listen to those birds.
Let's feel the breathing.
So you're in it together.
I like that.
And you know, what I like about it
is that, you know, we talk about you
talking about this, this friendly
attitude, this warmth, and this
kindness towards the mind, and it
strikes me when you're saying that.
But that is just the ultimate
kindness and warmth, isn't it?
You're actually just letting it be
as it is, but you're just bringing
awareness to how it is right now
with absolutely no agenda for
control or manipulation whatsoever.
I really, I really like that.
It's like not making
autopilot into an enemy.
Just letting it go.
I often find is that with mindfulness,
we do like mindfulness of breath and
then the body and sounds, and then I tell
people let's be mindfulness of thought.
Let's be mindful of our thoughts.
And for most people, as soon as they turn
their attention to their thoughts, they're
like, oh, I couldn't think of anything.
So they're fighting with their mind
all the time with the breathing and
with the body or pretending they're not
fighting with their mind, like, Oh yeah.
It's kind of going off, come back,
going off, come back and going off.
Now I say, okay be
mindful of your thoughts.
Shamash, what do you mean
be mindful of my thoughts?
I couldn't think when I was being mindful.
I'm like, exactly.
Quite often I see that happen.
Have you had that experience?
It's kind of like you say, say
to your mind, okay, now you can
wander to your heart's content.
You can do whatever you want, go for it.
And what do you get usually?
So the key is to have this attitude for
the whole of the mindfulness exercise.
Let it go.
This is what the process
of mindfulness is.
It's not about control, whether it's, you
know, harsh control or even pretending
to be not being harsh with yourself.
It's about truly letting things be.
Mindfulness is not an act of willpower or
an act of force, whether it's, you know,
strong or subtle, it's letting things be.
A nice analogy, which, you know,
my, one of my favorite teachers,
Ajahn Brahm uses, is he often uses
this a glass of water analogy.
So imagine this glass of
water as your thoughts.
And so you're holding this and as you
can see, the glass of water is moving.
So in mindfulness, we say, okay, let's
just do a little bit more effort.
Kind of hold it.
And the more effort you put, the
more it starts shaking around.
So I'm like, okay, I'm
really going to focus.
Now, let me be patient.
It's going off, come back.
It's still moving.
And it's only when we say, actually glass
of water, which is like your thoughts,
I'm just going to let you be as you are.
And as I put it down, you can't see,
but at first it still continues to move.
So when you let go and let the thoughts be
as they are, they still continue to move.
But eventually, because you stopped
controlling, that, that control
freak part of our brain starts to
ease, starts to let go and things
actually settle in a more relaxed way.
So this is actually opposite
of doing, of trying to control.
And we're so used to controlling that
when we start doing mindfulness and
meditation, for most people, that
part of our brain is still running.
So I want to get this right.
I want to make sure that mine's
going, I'll bring it, but you know,
and any, any sense of force or trying
to control is unfortunately going
to just keep it going, going, going.
But once you just listen to this,
these kind of concepts and learn to
actually, I'm really going to just let
the mind be as it is, let the emotions
be as they are, let the body sensation.
Let me just watch and observe.
Then in its own time, it does settle.
That's such a, it's really such
a, such a valuable insight.
And I love, you know, for the people
who are watching this who are just
starting out with mindfulness as well,
knowing that, just knowing that from
the beginning, that that mindfulness
is sort of not, it's not about,
it's not about controlling thoughts.
It's not about suppressing thoughts.
It's not about clearing your
mind or any of that stuff.
It's, it's actually just...
you know, in, in Mindfulness for
Dummies, I love how you, you talk about
this kind of letting go and having the
realization that you are not your mind.
You know, that, that, that finding that
spaciousness to step back and, and open
up to the awareness that's there behind
thoughts, and then the thoughts can
just come and go, arise and subside.
And that's really, really important.
In fact, that just reminds me of when
I first got into mindfulness, that
was such an important aspect for me.
So, I remember going into this,
this class, it was actually like a
practical philosophy class and they
just talked first about the concept
of different levels of awareness.
So they said there's sleep and
that's like low levels awareness.
I was like, yeah, that makes sense.
And then there's everyday wakefulness,
it's slightly more conscious awareness.
We're definitely a bit more
conscious, conscious when we're
awake rather than sleeping.
But then they said, there's these
higher levels of awareness which
you can cultivate through doing
consciousness or awareness exercises.
I'm like, yeah, that totally makes sense.
And then they said they did
this exercise where we went
through our different senses.
We could maybe do that
in a minute if you want.
And then once we went through our senses,
we took a step back and we said, actually,
you're watching these thoughts arise.
But if you're watching them, there's
the thoughts and then there's you.
And so there's a sense
of space and separation.
So no matter what these
thoughts say, it's not you.
And so they can say whatever they
want and they'll never affect
you because you're the observer.
Whatever emotions can come up,
whatever, even pain or difficulties
come up, but you are not them.
You're the watcher, you're the observer.
And once you kind of get a little
bit of a feel for that and appreciate
that, it really is life changing.
I mean, many of the people listening
to this may have heard of this guy,
Eckhart Tolle.The guy who wrote the Power
of Now, and that was his experience.
He was totally caught up in a depression.
He was suicidal.
And then there was a moment, I
think he said something like,
I cannot live with myself.
And then he though, Hold on a
moment, if I can't live with
myself, there's two bits to me.
There's the I that can't...
so that means that...
And then when he investigated a
bit further, he discovered that
yeah, there's me, the observer, and
then the experiences, but I'm the,
I'm kind of detached from that.
And there's a huge freedom in that.
So it's really, really important kind
of concept to experience at some point.
And something that opens up more and
more through mindfulness practice, I
was talking to Rick Hanson recently
about, about that, about how there's
a consistent reporting of people who
practice mindfulness, that there's their
sense of self changes to a, what Jon
Kabat Zinn sometimes talks about, as
an orthogonal rotation in our sense of
self from, from being these mind based
self with all this needs and wants and
its story-based self to, to something
much deeper and much more connected.
I remember reading some
research about that.
About the present moment self and
kind of like the storytelling self.
So this is where the storytelling self is
basically linked to that automatic pilot.
But I suppose the more we do mindfulness,
we realize actually there's another part
of my being, which is actually quite
still, it's quite calm, quite happy and
is actually watching the whole show.
And so I can tune into
that part of me too.
And this is something obviously that
over time, I think, you know, many
people experience this from time
to time in spontaneous moments of
mindfulness and that kind of thing.
But over time, it's certainly
true, in my own experience and many
people that I speak to, that that's
something that develops more and
more, more and more with practice.
So for those of you who are watching
and you don't sort of feel that the
first time you practice mindfulness,
that's fine and normal and whatever.
You can experience a whole
kind of different things in any
practice, no matter how long
you've been practicing for.
That's a really important point actually.
It's worth emphasizing that
mindfulness is not about trying
to get a particular experience.
It's about letting whatever
experience is arising, letting it be.
So if you're trying to feel peaceful,
if you're trying to feel calm, if
you're trying to feel relaxed, if
you're trying to feel detached,
then you're trying to get something.
So you're not letting the experience
be and the peace and the calm and
the letting go and the relaxation
comes from letting that experience
be, which is the agitation be, let
the stress be, let the thoughts be.
Like we were just talking about
earlier with the thoughts,
just let them be as they are.
Let go of the wanting
things to be different.
And then it's just a
matter of patience then.
In your own journey into mindfulness over
the years, so you you're, it sounds like
your journey started fairly young and then
you came to philosophy and mindfulness
in your, was it early twenties?
And so what does, over time, in
your own experience, what have been
the, the realizations, the insights
or the ways in which mindfulness
has changed your experience,
maybe in little ways or big ways?
What's that journey been like for you?
It's actually a little bit difficult for
me to say how my life would be different
if I hadn't done mindfulness because
I did it at a relatively young age.
So I could talk about how it was
before I did mindfulness and after.
I don't think it's actually totally
fixed that, you know, I'm unmindful
up to this point and then suddenly
mindful for the rest of my life.
So it's probably lots and lots of steps.
And we were having a little
chat earlier, weren't we, about,
about how I came to mindfulness.
And I suppose the first inklings of
it was when I was, I don't know what
age it was, maybe seven or eight or
something like that, and I just, just
looking around at the world and just
getting a sense of, hang on a minute.
Why is all this happening?
I mean, there could be just, it
could, life could be just nothing.
It could be nothing.
But it's so that there's this amazing
universe and trees and birds and
the earth and then just beyond that,
we've got this whole solar system
and beyond that we're in this galaxy.
It's just an incredibly huge universe.
And then I'm just going around with
my little thoughts about my, you know,
my mom and my dad, this little world
of mine that I'm kind of caught up in.
And then I looked around at everyone
else and they're all caught up in
this old, this, this little world too.
And they're worrying about the tiniest
of things and there's this amazing thing
happening, the fact that we're alive.
It kind of doesn't make sense.
And it's a huge mystery, actually.
It's a massive mystery and yet people
never talked to me about this, this
mysterious world that we're living again.
And yet, you know, they're talking
about exams or about computer
games or about these really
tiny things when we've actually.
It's like, imagine that you took
human beings now and you put
them into this magical heaven.
And then they were just talking about,
you know, there's some little thing
that they have to do that day when
actually hang on a minute, look at
this, look around us, theres this
amazing thing that's happening.
So that was the kind of, that was
my first, I never realized, you
know, this is something that, that
people talked about, the sense of,
you know, philosophy and about the
sense of the mystery of the world.
And you know, about
consciousness and awareness.
I never knew many people
talked about it at all.
So there's a sense of like, this is
really weird that I'm thinking about this.
And then it just kind of, as I got
totally, you know, when I went to
secondary school and you've got loads
of homework, I got caught up in the same
thing that everybody else was caught up
in, because you're just living, I suppose
from fear, if, you know, if you don't
do your homework, you get told off with
this consequence and that consequence.
And I think it's partly, probably
because of fears about getting into
trouble or not doing the right thing.
I just got caught up in,
in that same world, too.
And then it was only when I
was, I suppose I had, luckily I
had this wake up call whenI was
studying and I was at university.
And I was, one of my
friends was religious.
Like I'd been brought up, like my
mum was from the Hindu background.
My dad was kind of from a Muslim
background, but neither of them
had stuck to their faith too much.
So I wasn't really brought
up in a religious sense.
So I have that sense of openness.
And I just, when I've done this
job, cause I was studying chemical
engineering, I did it as a, as a
summer job, like an internship thing.
I didn't like it at all.
And I found myself just, just in this
evening philosophical type class.
And it was such a relief to
realize that people actually
sit around and talk about life.
They don't just talk about money
or they don't just talk about jobs
or about what some TV or computer
games, but they also talk about this
mystery of that were actually alive.
And they also talk about how to
live a happier life, actually,
and a more conscious life and just
reflect about how life is going.
And that was a wonderful,
That particular day.
I can't remember what day that was
exactly, but when I did that mindful
exercise and that discovered that there's
this whole new group of who, this whole
world of people that talk about this.
And then I think basically from that
day onwards, I've been both practicing
it and then also as soon as I could,
I wanted to start teaching it as well.
It's just in my nature, so
I started doing that too.
So that's, I suppose those two worlds,
like before and after mindfulness, in the
sense of before the sense of fear-based,
of not having much options, like, you
know, autopilot, coming and going in
it's ownnatural way, to discovering
there's a whole different way of
deliberately living in a conscious way.
And yeah, it's really good.
I recommend it guys.
It's and it's, I, I know that, I know
that it's over, not only in our lifetimes,
but through the millennia, it's, it's
such a difficult thing, I think, to
articulate sometimes what it is that
it is to be, to feel mindful or to
feel, you know, an interconnectedness
with life or to feel wonder.
I know you talk in Mindfulness for
Dummies about having a sense of
wonder and a sense of connectedness
with life and that kind of thing.
And, and we use these terms that it's
sort of, other than that, it can be
a bit tricky to define, I suppose.
Yeah, it can.
I mean, I just thought of an analogy now.
Like once you learn how to walk,
so you know how to walk, but then
if you ask that person, so what was
it like not to walk, it's kind of,
it's after awhile, you forget what
it's like to walk because you've
kind of been doing that kind of way.
So it's, it's this kind of, it becomes
like as you practice it more and read
about it more and meet more like always
mixing with people who are into this,
then you kind of, it's easy to forget
what it's like at the beginning.
So that's why it's important to
keep in touch with people who
are just new to and fresh to it.
And, you know, you give them this little
piece of food and they taste, And they're
like, Oh my god, this tastes so good.
Or you just do a little bit of mindful
walking with them and they just really
feel that, wow, it's like, they're
looking at outer space, men, like
walking on the moon, like it's like
discovering a whole different world
when you live in a more conscious way.
So yeah, that really enjoyed that.
So I have two, two kind of questions aimed
at beginners coming to this practice.
Maybe, you know, let's, let's say we
take a person who is thinking about
setting up a mindfulness, living
more mindfully, maybe setting up a
formal practice at home or whatever.
And, and what advice would you give
to somebody who is just starting out
with a mindfulness practice at home?
Any little practical pieces of
advice or things to watch out for?
So there's a few things that I'd like to
kind of personally recommend to people,
first of all, coming to mindfulness.
And the first thing is, is
as much as possible try and
make it enjoyable for you.
So you remember, I talked
about this friendly experience,
this friendly attitude.
So, I think even the word, I
call it, I should say a formal
meditation or formal mindfulness.
That sounds like, you know, you need
to kind of get dressed up for it.
It's like this really, really
important moment that's coming up,
I'm about to do formal mindfulness.
So whatever you want to call it,
call it whatever feels right for you.
And then for me, in my own personal
experience and what I've found with
the students I teach, is that let
yourself be really comfortable, even
more comfortable than what I've written
about in my book and also in other books.
If you want to lie down, lie down,
if you want to sit in the coziest
sofa, you can find, then do that.
Let yourself be really physically
comfortable for this, this
mindfulness or meditation
exercise that you're going to do.
And then what people say to me, but Oh, if
I get too comfortable, then I fall asleep.
By saying falling asleep, the Dalai
Lama was saying sleep is one of
the best meditations you can have.
We are really, first of all, we're not
sleeping enough because of this thing
we've invented called electricity,
which keeps us awake all night.
So, and then all these gadgets and stuff.
So most people are not
getting enough sleep.
And then when we do sit down to do what we
call meditation and we fall asleep, most
people are like, ah, no, I fell asleep.
I'm not doing it right.
But this is exactly what
your body needs right now.
Before you can start to
come to mindfulness and
meditation, you need to sleep.
Sleep has so many amazing benefits.
So sit in a nice, comfortable position,
comfortable chair, comfortable
bed, whatever works for you.
And if you do fall asleep, just let it be.
Like congratulate yourself, oh, thank you.
You gave me some sleep.
Like this recent teacher training I was
working and I was guiding meditations and
some of the people were falling asleep
while I was guiding it over the internet.
And at first they were kind of
critical towards themselves.
And I told them about this letting
things be, which means sleep.
And it was such a relief for people.
And then within just a few days,
when they started doing the
practice, they didn't fall asleep.
Just like with the mind, when you
let the mind wander off and let it
be, it starts to calm and settle
at same time, same with sleep.
When you just let the sleep be, after
a while, you start to get enough sleep.
And then it naturally starts
to wake up and be present.
So the first piece of advice, let yourself
be really physically comfortable and cozy.
And if you fall asleep then let it be.
Secondly, what we've already mentioned
earlier, which is to, to bring this
friendly attitude towards yourself.
And so don't rush yourself too much
too, because with mindfulness, obviously
a lot of, a lot of the times, people
focus on mindfulness for breathing,
but that requires a certain level
of consciousness and awareness.
And sometimes when we first come into
mindfulness meditation, that, that sense
of that fine attention can't be there.
So just let yourself be attentive
to whatever you can notice.
It might be just the weight
of your body on the chair.
It might be just the sounds in the room.
It might be, might be your breathing.
It might be some thoughts
or emotions coming up.
So just let things be and just notice.
But I particularly recommend you
start with your physical body and
just noticing bodily sensations.
And see if you can bring this quality that
we're talking about, which is letting go.
And then people often ask me,
okay, how do you do letting go?
Once you start noticing your body
feeling the sensations that say like
at the moment, my legs are twisted.
So I'm sitting here and start to sit.
And as I turn the attention
to my body, maybeI can feel a
slight tension in my lower back.
So I turn my attention
there, pay attention there.
And as I start to focus and notice,
there may be a certain release.
And any sense of release is letting go.
You're doing it, you're achieving it.
So you get feedback.
You're noticing a sensation.
And at some point one of those sensations
may relax just the tiniest bit.
So there's that little bit of letting go.
You've actually managed to do that.
And so if you kind of acknowledge that and
then you move to another part and another
one starts to release, starts to let go.
So you just start to feel more
relaxed, more comfortable.
And then that this pleasant
experience which I was talking about,
starts to grow and grow and grow.
So that's kind of a long answer, but
the, the main things are first of all,
by making yourself nice and comfortable.
Secondly, focus on
whatever you can notice.
And then just bring this kindliness,
this friendliness and just get feedback.
And when you get into this sense of
relaxing and letting go, and if it's
becoming a more enjoyable experience for
you, then there's definitely the sense
that you're going in the right direction.
Very easeful and light practice.
So you're not of the school of thought
of, you know, student as upright
and rigid a position as possible
with every muscle of your body
tense so that you can stay awake.
No, no, I've tried doing that, but...
Yeah, I've also tried that.
But this technique is a lot more
fun for me and more relaxing and
the results that you get from people
who are doing the practice once they
start to really let go, is incredible.
Actually, people get really,
really deep experiences.
So I really want to try it.
And we are really glad that
we have this, this forum, this
platform, to be able to share this.
At least try it.
If you've always been sitting in very
rigid, you know, maybe you've been
doing meditation for 10 years and you've
always been sitting in this maybe too
much upright or too tense posture.
Just see if you can just experiment
with this for a few weeks.
Just letting your, letting go
of your body, letting it be and
being soft and kind and friendly.
Just notice what happens.
Yeah, there was, I want to share with
you that there was this, there was a
period in my life where I was being
the very serious, serious meditator.
And then I noticed that pattern,
exactly like what we're talking about.
I noticed this real, like kind of
not an embodiment of friendliness and
kindness and openness and letting go.
And so what I did was I started cloud
watching as my meditation, laying down and
just looking at the clouds and, you know,
with my arms wide open and going, Oh yeah.
Now this feels embodied, you know, just
watching the world go by and being, you
know, etting things come and go like
clouds and just like relaxing into it.
And you really enjoyed that did you?
Yeah, no, that sounds fantastic.
And then the cloud watching embodied
attitude, if you know, when I, you
couldn't, you can't always cloud
watch, but that the sense, the
sense of the easefulness of that.
I think, you know, Thich Nhat Hanh talks
about, you know, going on a picnic
on a Sunday, you know, and, and that
you could live, you know, even when
you're putting up tent poles for the
picnic tent, that's part of the picnic.
So it's all very easeful.
And, and, you know, he was, he
kind of says, you know, you can,
everything can be like putting
the picnic tent up on the Sunday.
So it was that kind of bringing
cloud watching into, back
into my formal practice.
This is, this is what I love.
That sense of creativity in mindfulness
so that you don't have, there's no
fixed answer about how to be mindful.
Every human being is different.
And we human beings, majority of
the time, love to be creative.
So you use a nice extra example of
some creativity there where you tried
something different and it worked for
you, and then that's your little practice.
So it feels really great.
So I'd really encourage people
to also see what works for you.
Like, you know what
position, what posture.
It could be walking.
Walking meditation's a fantastic
one for a lot of people.
It could be yoga or movement or Tai Chi.
It's different for different people.
And then it starts to spread to
your whole life, which is what
the whole point of that is.
It's not about now is mindful time
and now it's be really wild and
crazy for the rest of your life.
It's actually to let
that spread and open up.
So, you know, whenever you do notice
the cloud, do you really enjoy it.
Do you really observe and look at it.
Just you mentioned Thich Nhat Hanh,
a great teacher, just a little story
that comes to mind because I came
from this retreat and the teacher
of the retreat was one of the
close disciples of Thich Nhat Hanh.
So he's very close to him,
been his teacher for 50 years.
And he went to visit him because Thich
Nhat Hanh is not well at the moment.
He's in hospital.
And he went in January and he said
it was an incredible experience
because when he walked into that
ward, I think it's supposed to
be some sort of emergency ward.
But because of all these monks, which
are these disciples of Thich Nhat
Hanh always walk in a very mindful
and calm and slow way, he said all
the doctors and nurses were the same.
So like all the doctors were like
tiptoeing around, walking slowly,
being conscious and mindful.
And, and he said it was like,
he'd never seen this ever before.
Like doctors and nurses are normally
rushing around in this kind of place.
So even though he's not well, and
he's lying in this hospital bed
because of the way he's taught
mindfulness to his students and the
way they're being conscious, the
mindfulness is spreading around him.
So, this is another interesting
thing which sometimes we don't
talk about so much, in that
mindfulness is actually quite catchy.
And if you practice mindfulness,
just a little bit more, people around
you start to maybe slow down or to
be more awake or more conscious.
And it actually has this
positive feedback loop.
And that's perhaps partly why mindfulness
is spreading so much because people's
presence and awareness is naturally
spreading from one person to the next.
And this is not to say, to act, to
act in a mindful way, when you see
someone like Thich Nhat Hanh, I see
the way he walks slowly and speaks,
like he'd be speaking a lot slower
than I am, but he's being himself.
And it's important for us to be
ourselves and not to act wise
or act this way or that way.
Sometimes it was fun to act a
little mindful of spirit, but
just to be yourself actually.
But when you're yourself with this and
treat yourself with the sense of presence
and awareness and people love that.
People love people who love
themselves, who are not trying
to be, trying to be mindful.
Whatever your personal expression is
of being present, whether you're an
energetic person or a slower moving
person or whatever, passionate person
or whatever, whatever that authentic
expression is, people love it.
Yeah, for sure.
So I'd love to invite you to lead
us in a practice of mindfulness,
if you, yeah, if you would care to.
Yeah, I'm sitting in a really, really
erect posture with every muscle tense.
Like incense sticks.
People are, I see people would be
kind of by their computers if they're
listening to this or on their phones.
Let's just experiment
with this approach of...
How much time should we have,
do we have five, 10 minutes?
Yeah, Yeah, 5 or 10
minutes would be wonderful.
So let's just start by getting
ourselves nice, cozy and comfortable.
So just the way you do that is to
notice how your body's feeling.
So if you're sitting on the chair,
then just readjusting your posture.
So it's in a nice posture where
you feel comfortable and at ease.
And if you'd prefer to lie down
for this or some combination of
sitting or lying down when you're
placing your feet up, just try that.
So see what works for you.
And we're just going to spend a
couple of minutes just checking in
with our posture, posture actually.
So once you've got your, what feels
relatively comfortable for you and
relaxed, allowing your eyes to close,
just to help you to tune into your
inner world of your physical sensations.
And maybe just taking a couple
of deeper in and out breaths.
So taking a nice, full, deep
breath in and slow breath out.
And as you breathe out nice and
slowly, maybe combining it with
just the tiniest of smiles.
You may not feel very smiley right
now, but just experimenting with just
lifting the corners of your mouth.
And you may just get the sense of letting
go in the body, your physical muscles,
maybe just relaxing a little bit more.
Maybe not just noticing.
And now as you're starting to naturally
become a little bit more aware of your
body, a little bit more conscious,
there may be certain parts of your
body that still don't feel quite right.
And so I invite you to just continue
to adjust your posture as necessary.
You might notice that your legs are
not in quite the right place, or maybe
you need to loosen some tight clothing.
As the attention starts going from
this outer world into the inner world
of your body and you start to notice
the sensations more and more, there's
still a period of time where you
need to continue to make adjustments.
So feel free to continue to do so.
Let that be your first act of kindness
towards yourself, friendliness.
And now sometimes in mindfulness,
we can do a little visualization
to help us to start the process.
So let's do that.
So I'd like you to imagine thatt you're
holding two heavy bags, one in each hand.
One bag in your left hand represents
the past and one bag in your
right hand represents the future.
So just imagine you're standing or
sitting somewhere and you're just
holding these heavy bags, you're
holding them up and you've been carrying
them around maybe all day or week
or month, or maybe your whole life.
But right now, we're going to
be just putting these bags down.
The bag of the past, which represents all
your memories, all the things that have
happened today and perhaps all the way
throughout your past, all the regrets,
all the good things that happened to you.
Just slowly imagining lowering
that bag down towards the
ground, towards the earth.
And just noticing what it feels like
to just open up your fingers and just
really release and let go of the past.
And then your right hand, you're
holding the weight of the future,
all the ideas, your goals, your
dreams, your visions, your worries
and concerns about the future.
Just lowering that bag down too.
Just for the time being.
Imagining your hand going down, and
just releasing, opening up your fingers.
So you can just for these few precious
minutes that we have together, just see
if you can stay present with my voice,
with this experience and just for the
time being, let go of past and future.
Now when you let go of past and
future, you find yourself in between
those two, which is actually the
only moment you truly experience any
place you can live and be creative.
It's actually one of the best
places to be, and it's the
present moment, the here and now.
So noticing what it feels like to have
at least even just a tiny bit, let go
of these thoughts about past and future.
And to be here with your body, the
sound of my voice, the sounds in
my room, in the room that you're
sitting in, or maybe outside.
Just noticing what that feels like.
We've been talking about the body and
looking after our physical body when
we first start mindfulness, so let's
just come back to our body now and
just noticing how your body feels.
And maybe just checking in and noticing
which parts of your body feels still a
little bit tense, a little bit tight.
There'll be some aspect of your
body that may not be totally relaxed
and comfortable, even though you've
adjusted your bodily posture.
So what I'd like you to do is that
when you're ready, just gently turning
the spotlight of your attention
towards that part of your body.
And that's the mindfulness bit.
Turning your attention to the
sensations where there's the tiniest
or strong aspect of tension or
tightness, difficulty, or maybe pain.
And then once you've managed to
connect with that sensation with
the mindfulness, then sending this
kindness I've been talking about, this
warmth, this sense of friendliness.
So just letting it be being soft
and kind and gentle towards it.
And just noticing the mindfulness
will give you feedback.
Maybe it's starting to relax,
so let go a little bit.
If so, great.
And even if it doesn't, just continue
to watch, to observe the sensations.
And if they do dissolve and
diminish, then move on to another
different part of your body.
And if they continue to stay
there, then that's okay too.
See if you can just allow
it and just let it be.
And as I mentioned earlier, to
help you to cultivate this friendly
awareness, it can be helpful to
just lift the corners of your mouth.
If there's one posture that
you need in mindfulness, quite
often, it's just this tiny smile.
So staying with your bodily
sensations as best you can.
And again, as we spoke earlier, the
tendency of the mind may be to wander
off to other thoughts and concerns,
and if that does happen, then maybe
for the time being, just let it be.
Turn your attention to thoughts,
to the mind, and just notice.
Where does the mind want to go?
What does it want to think about?
And then it may want to think
for a bit, or it may not.
Let it be.
So we're going from battling or
being enemies with the mind and
body to actually being best friends
with both body and mind together.
So as we continue to practice,
you may notice a certain sense of
release and relaxation, maybe the
tiniest bit, just the fraction of 1%.
And if so, then well done.
And just seeing if we can continue
to enjoy the experience they bring
that sense of pleasantness, the
sense of letting go, enjoying the
mindful experience as best you can.
And as I said earlier, if you not finding
this experience to be relaxing or this
a sense of letting go, and just see
if you can be patient with yourself.
Just stay with noticing and observing
and bring this friendly attitude.
And if you really want to help to
increase that, then one approach would
be to just place your hand on your heart.
The left, or right hand, placing
it on the physical heart.
That can sometimes help to cultivate
this warmth, this friendly attitude,
as you continue to feel the sensations
in your body and enjoying any sense
of letting go, the relaxation.
As you continue to do this, you may start
to notice that significant sensation and
movement in the body is the breathing.
And there's no special place
you need to feel the breathing.
This is not mindfulness of
nose or mindfulness of belly.
This is mindfulness of breathing.
So just feeling the
whole process breathing.
You know when you're breathing in and
you know when you're breathing out.
So, if that does happen to rise up
in your attention and your awareness
and see if we can, again, bring
this attitude of friendliness,
kindness, warmth to your breathing.
Turning the present moment into what
we talked about, a pleasant one to be.
Because your mind likes to move towards
happiness, towards what it was pleasant.
So giving yourself permission to enjoy
these few precious moments together.
Using the moments of silence to
just tune into the experience.
Letting go, putting that
glass of water down.
Putting that sense of control
down and just letting things be.
And as we're slowly starting to come
towards the end of this practice, just
noticing how you're feeling right now.
Noticing what this
experience was like for you.
And if it was a positive experience, if
you did feel that maybe there was the
sense of letting go, enjoying letting
things be even a tiny bit, then just
notice what you did, what attitude you
managed to bring to bring this about.
So there's a sense of learning.
And if you didn't, if you found it
a difficulty or a struggle, then not
berating yourself, not criticizing
yourself, but just noticing that.
And maybe having another go at another
time and seeing how it works for you.
So when you're ready, and you
want to bring this exercise to
close and just gently, maybe just
wiggling your toes or your fingers.
Maybe gently opening your
eyeswhen ready to do so.
And having a little stretch.
I enjoyed that.
No, it's it's it's always amazing.
We spoke about this before
the interview started.
It's, it's amazing because we took
one moment, one minute of mindfulness
before we started our interview.
And it's always amazing, you
know, how nourishing a short,
even a short practice can be.
Thank you for sharing that.
Oh, you're welcome.
So I just have one more
question before we close.
And it's the question that
I'm asking all of our,summit
speakers and, and interviewees.
And that is, you know, it's been said
that mindfulness has the capacity
to, to change the world from the
inside out one person at a time.
And so what I'm curious about is,
you know, it's said sometimes that
mindfulness has gone mainstream and I
think it's entering popular culture.
But in your opinion, if mindfulness
was really to hit critical mass,
I'm talking 50% maybe of the world's
population, what kind of a world
do you think that would create?
You know, from what you've seen when
you teach people over the years and what
you've seen unfold in your own life?
I mean, realistically, what kind of a
world do you think that could create.
I recently came back from
this retreat that I mentioned.
The guy who is leading it is the
program director of Gross, the
concept of Gross National Happiness.
In Bhutan, the King of Bhutan was
once asked, a journalist asked him,
what's the GDP of your country.
And he says, I don't, at that point,
he said, I don't care about GDP.
I care about GNH, gross national happiness
in my country, how happy is my country.
And their policies on a country,
country-wide basis is based on
what would actually make the
country a happier place to be.
So, you know, they don't allow, you
know, fast food companies to come in.
There is, you know, very little
television and stuff though.
Because they focus on, they
look at what actually makes the
world a happier place to be in.
Nature is very important
to them, for example.
So if something like 50% of the
population, which would be incredible,
was, you know, interested even not,
maybe not even just mindfulness, but
actually just interested in these
values of, you know, raising happiness
and wellbeing, rather than just, just
focusing on, you know, making these
super rich people even richer and just
taking more oil out on the ground.
Just focusing on these unsustainable.
I think with mean moving from a world,
which is just very unsustainable
at the moment to being a more
sustainable place to be, because
you're more conscious of that.
And the beautiful thing is that there
is these pockets of places in the
world where it's starting to happen
on the country-wide basis like Bhutan.
Oregon is starting to think
about putting these policies in.
Costa Rica is starting to look.
And this guy was saying like, you know,
the system, this may start to spread
to other South American countries.
So from a global level, as we start to be
more conscious and aware, I think we start
to care more for the people around us.
We start to care more for the environment.
And, and then, because if we're
kind of positive on this kind of
individual basis, we start making
more positive global decisions.
So as a world, we focus
on what's more important.
Like I've got on my t-shirt.
It says, Happy is the new rich.
I see you dressed for the occasion.
We start to focus on what's really, really
important, which is happiness, well-being,
compassion and care for each other.
So it becomes a less violent and a
more sustainable place to live in.
And thank you so much for
sharing your time for the summit.
I really, really appreciate you
taking this time out for us.
Is there anything that you
want to add before we close?
I just thought I'd add that
little moment of silence.
There is nothing else I'd like to say.
I'm just really, really grateful for
the opportunity to be able to share
what, you know, what I find works
for me and through my experience.
So to have this platform of forums
for people to be able to access it
and it is live in the it's even free
for them, I think that's wonderful.
So thank you very much for your hard work.
I'm sure you've been working
extremely hard to put this together.
So I really appreciate that and
very happy to give my time if it's
going to make this world a little
bit more conscious and compassionate
and sustainable, as I said.
So I really, really appreciate it.
Well, thank you so much again for
your time and the see you next time.
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