An Evening of Meditation
SERVING TOGETHER BLOG
By Curt Woolford, MA, Mindfulness Insturctor, Consultant, and Coach
It’s about 9:00 pm and I’m about to meditate before going to bed. I thought I’d try something different and record my experiences while meditating. To do this, I’ll take breaks on occasion to share what’s happening.
Here we go!
It’s Sunday evening and I have found my way to my familiar cushion – a dedicated spot in my bedroom for seated meditation. I begin with several minutes of sigh breaths, enjoying a sense of letting go with each slow exhale. My mind is busy with thoughts and feelings as it reviews my weekend and anticipates a busy workday tomorrow. Resistance to practice emerges, the voice within saying: “I’m tired. It would feel so nice just to crawl into bed.” I continue to sit on my meditation cushion. I sigh even more.
I turn my attention toward sensations of breath, inviting a sense of curiosity with each inhale and exhale. After several minutes, I anchor my attention on a specific breath sensation that stands out for me. Tonight I choose to anchor attention on the sensation of breath in my nostrils.
I begin to meditate in the mindfulness tradition, a practice that strengthens my ability to be more present and aware of the moments that join together to build my life. I anchor attention on sensation of breath at my nostrils. I keep my attention anchored for several breath cycles, noticing my body’s natural presence. The next thing I notice is that I’ve been caught in a stream of thinking about the future, my mind running movies of concern about my forthcoming busy workweek and anxiety about getting it all done. I return my attention to sensation of breath. Several breath cycles later my mind wanders again, running regret that my weekend was not quite as fun as I would have liked, a bit resentful of the time spent working on a post-graduate course. I return my attention to sensation of breath. And so it goes. As soon as I’m aware that my attention has wandered, I bring it back to the breath, as often as needed.
It’s about 10 minutes into practice and I continue my seated meditation in the mindfulness tradition. My mind cycles easily through its typical menu of concerns. As I continue to meditate, this mental activity begins to soften. My thoughts and feelings of concern lesson in frequency and intensity. I’m aware that this does not always happen, although it’s nice when it does. I’m reminded of one of the attitudes of mindfulness – non-striving. Meditation’s only goal is for me to be myself, simply paying attention to whatever is happening.
Fifteen minutes into practice I find myself anchoring attention more on the heart center, feeling the rise and fall of my chest as I breathe. Shifting my anchor of breath sensation was spontaneous. As I return attention to my heart, again and again as my mind wanders, a felt sense of wisdom bubbles up. It’s something like this: my mind thinks it’s got my life under control and should be the center of my attention. My heart knows differently.
I continue to meditate – it’s about 20 minutes into practice. I imagine that my breath is flowing directly in and out of my heart. I feel more at peace with each breath cycle. My mind is relaxed and relatively quiet. I’m delightfully surprised with this sense of peace.
About 40 minutes into practice my mental and emotional state has relaxed even more. I feel very present. A smile spontaneously comes to my face. I feel ready for a peaceful night’s sleep with a heart that is more open. I feel grateful for practice.
I prepare to end my mindfulness practice, aware that meditation does not always give rise to a sense of calm and peace. The gift of practice is cultivating presence with whatever arises, moment by moment.
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About Curt Woolford, MA
Mindfulness Insturctor, Consultant, and Coach
Curt’s professional background includes mindfulness, organizational development, organizational communication, and human resource development. He is founder and director of the Mindfulness program for Crozer-Keystone Health System where he teaches mindfulness-based stress reduction and develops workshops for physicians and nurses. Curt’s mindfulness at work consulting includes Drexel Emergency Medicine, Lourdes Health System, Crozer Chester Medical Center, Independence Blue Cross, Drexel Law School, Philadelphia Bar Association, Subaru of America, Swarthmore College, and Penn State University.
Curt has been a practitioner of mindfulness for 30 years. He has studied mindfulness-based stress reduction with Jon Kabat-Zinn, The Penn Program for Mindfulness, and the Jefferson Mindfulness Institute. Curt has been an instructor of mindfulness, yoga, tai chi, and qigong for 20 years. With degrees in Philosophy and Educational Psychology, Curt brings a deep awareness of the learning process to his mindfulness instruction.