By Thomas McConkie, adapted from an episode of the Mindfulness+ podcast.
Hear this episode to follow along.
Take a moment to let the body settle into a posture that allows you to be both relaxed and alert. And as the body settles in, you can just open up awareness to all of sensation, everything you're feeling throughout the entire physical body in this moment. Feel the stretch in awareness as you do that.
And from here you can narrow your attention to just the torso for the moment, feeling the in-breath and the out-breath — expansion, contraction. Breathing in, feeling clearly the sensations of expansion through the torso. Breathing out, feeling clearly the sensation of contraction through the torso.
Just stay with this for a moment. Feeling the in-breath, expansion. Feeling the out-breath, contraction.
If at any point you get pulled into a thought or are distracted by something in the environment, just notice that, let go, and come back to breathing. Expansion, contraction. Feel the sensation as it fluxes, as it cascades from in-breath to out-breath.
Pay attention especially to the out-breath. Notice that a subtle wave of relaxation tends to spread with each out-breath as the muscles associated with breathing relax. Let go. So with each out-breath, you can allow yourself to be carried by this wave into deeper and deeper relaxation. And if you become aware of intense sensation, intense emotion or discomfort as you do this, you can just stay soft as best you can and allow those sensations to well up, to be felt, and to eventually pass. Don't worry if you don't feel as settled as you think you should be. Don't worry if you're not as relaxed as you imagine a better meditator would be by now. You don't have to worry about any of that. You can just trust — deeply trust — your body’s own natural rhythm of settling in, of letting go, of surfacing, releasing anything that needs to be felt and shed.
And you can do the same thing with emotion: bringing your awareness now to the more subtle body, noticing how you feel in this moment: Your mood, your emotional tone. Just let it be so. If you're the happiest person on earth in this moment, then be so happy that it hurts. If you're the saddest person or the angriest person on the planet in this moment, just be that. Just be what you are.
Let thought, likewise, just flow through awareness. You're not trying to think more or think less, or not think at all. Let thought just be part of the experience when it's part of the experience. The brain secretes thoughts like the mouth secretes saliva. When we see a piece of food, it just happens. It's not a problem unless we make it a problem.
And notice, in this moment, that you're already aware. Sometimes we practice meditation because we want to get enlightened and we want to wake up, but really if we look closely at that, it's just more struggle. It's trying to be something other than what we are right now. So just be awake right now. What you'll find is that you actually can't not be awake. Even if you try. You're always aware.
And if at any point you notice awareness getting clogged up with thoughts in the mind, sensations in the body, sounds in the room — whatever it is — you can just notice and let go again. Empty out again back into clear, pure, open awareness. This awareness, this presence, also is your own body with virtually no borders. Just an endless expanse of wakeful space.
Staying open, staying soft. Awareness is naturally spacious and expansive. You are naturally spacious and expansive. And from this expanse you can focus your attention again on this quality of vitality: life itself that courses through you, that animates you, enlivens you. Notice that you're not just awake in this moment, but you're alive. Just feel this aliveness. We don't know what it is, where it comes from, this life. We have words to explain it, ideas and different stories, but at the end of the day, this gift of life — this vitality — is a mystery. We never fully comprehend the mystery but we can experience it directly. When we do so, when we open up to this mystery, this gift of life, we find the natural quality of reverence. Reverence for this beauty. Reverence for this gift. When we really receive this gift fully, we naturally want to tread lightly. To be gentle with ourselves, to be gentle with others, gentle with all of life.
Just give yourself a moment to really receive this gift of life. None of us know how much longer we'll enjoy this gift. But in this moment, in this very breath, we know we are unspeakably wealthy.
As you're ready, you can start to open your eyes, letting the visual world back in to experience. Staying soft, staying close to yourself, remaining aware of this gift that is the foundation of our human life.