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Meditation for Self Care

She+ Geeks Out teamed up with mindfulness educator Sarah Jane Shangraw to bring a meditation for self care to our community. Rest and care are essential as we work to abolish inequity in the workplace and beyond. Enjoy this 20 minute meditation as you center yourself, leave distractions behind, and indulge in self care for times of crisis and change.

The meditation transcript is below:

Welcome. We engage in meditation. We cultivate mindful awareness for our own and others’ benefit for each of us individually. It can engender focus, calm, and even an inner, knowing it is excellent self-care. And as we relate to ourselves through meditation attuning to our body, heart, mind system, we’re practicing, relating and attuning to others who also have bodies, hearts, and minds. So this is self care as well as a way to deepen our capacity, to understand and relate with others, to be agents for goodness and equity in the wider world. The nature of our body, heart, mind systems are the same as each others. They’re always changing, breaking, and healing, producing, and consuming, or being stuck and getting unstuck.

They are also the subject of conditioning. We share our conditioning from our over culture, the beliefs and assumptions and biases. We learn from society at large. We also have it from our family and from our own experiences, what we do with it, how we relate to it, whether we disrupt it, heal it, learn from it, speaks to who we are. But first we must notice it. And this is where mindfulness meditation comes in. I invite you to find a comfortable and dignified posture in this mindfulness meditation. We will be getting in touch with our own body, heart, and mind as they are now in the throes of change. No doubt, subject to forces. We may or may not be aware of. We begin. First, the body, we take up residence in the body with our attention. We might feel into our foundation, the areas of the body that are touching what’s below and holding us up here at these points of contact. We might notice sensations of pressure, texture, temperature.

Let’s rest with our attention in our foundation for a few moments. Some people like to imagine growing roots downward, we’re establishing a sense of centeredness hereness.

Now let’s notice the body breathing. Where is the breath most evident in the body? It might be in the belly, chest or nostrils. Wherever it is, wherever you most easily feel the breath be with your inhales and your exhales right there. No need to change the breath or make it special in any way. It needn’t be deeper, smoother, more even. No improvements to make. Simply rest your attention on your breath, feeling it. 

Now most of us have experienced distraction. It’s not a problem, it’s to be expected. What matters is what we do in that moment when we realize our minds have wandered away. This moment is a mindful moment. The thinking we had previously been unconscious of, we are now aware of, and we can return our back to our breathing in the body where it’s most evident. 

You might consider your breath an anchor for your attention. It does not matter how often your mind wanders really, or for how long it’s been away. As long as you take advantage of that mindful moment, where you wake up, realize distraction has happened and return your attention lightly mindfully, to your breaths in the body. There might be a dance between distraction and focus for a while. It can happen that your windows of presence, those times in which you are aware of breathing become larger and larger, longer and longer, less distraction in between. 

At the same time, we are noticing our breathing. We can notice other things, perhaps keep 60% of your attention on your breathing in the body and allow yourself to also notice other phenomena, the emotions that well up, the thoughts that fill our mind. You can imagine these experiences as waves that ebb and flow rise and fall around the anchor of the book.

Breath in noticing emotions and thoughts. We are not trying to perpetuate a story or figure anything out. We’re really just noticing the fact of the rising and falling away of emotions and thoughts in our inner life.

If we become entangled with a thought, if we go far away with it, it’s not a problem. We can always return from distraction. It is not easy to notice thoughts and emotions arising without becoming involved with them. We apply a gentle effort to this endeavor, being with the breath, anchoring ourselves there, returning to our anchor when needed, Noticing the rise and fall of experience around it. And when we get thrown away, coming back. As we are mindful of emotions that well up in the heart space, and of thoughts that are produced in the mind, we may have a sense of just how changeable, variable, impermanent, fleeting emotions and thoughts are. 

The breath comes and goes, sensations arrive and pass away in the body. Emotions well up in the domain of the heart; thoughts are produced by the mind. This is the flow of experience. Our inner world is characterized by constant change, Mindful of our inner landscape. We are befriending ourselves and getting to know the nature of our body, heart mind system. We have the privilege of direct experience with something that’s fleeting. We understand the body, heart and mind as not so solid.

It might be possible to sense what is underneath all of this constant change, this flow of experience. As you continue feeling into this ever-changing flow of experience, you might inquire what is doing the noticing, what knows this experience is something beneath this busyness. Something still.No need to analyze this so much as allow to feel it, To be aware of whatever is here. Perhaps to be aware of awareness itself.

If your attention becomes dispersed and you lose track of present moment experience, not a problem, You can return to the home of the breath abiding with your inhales and your exhales for a spell, narrowing your focus on them until you feel stable once again.

And then you might open up to the experience of having a body, heart and mind becoming aware again, of the constant flow of experience, the exquisite interplay of sensations, energy in the body feelings, ideas without becoming too enamored of them, getting hooked, and going away. 

Our light touch of attention allows us to be with the flow of experience as it unfolds in the present moment. And again, returning to the breath to collect our attention, relaxing into the flow of experience might be followed by touching in to what’s essential. What is below or behind, or somewhere other than the flow of experience that is witnessing it.

You might feel this as relaxing into presence. You might place your hands on your lower belly, Bringing your attention down and in there, to our inner ground. Out in everyday life, whenever you need to stabilize or come back to yourself, to get in touch with what’s essential, you can use breath. You can use hands on the inner belly as a tactile reminder that there is an inner ground here, something essential and true, more still than the busyness of experience.

We share with others, not only the fact of having a body, heart and mind, not only the fact of the human condition existing with change, but we also share this sense of inner groundedness. Each of us has it available to us. May you return to it whenever you need to.

Now at the end of our meditation, here are some words from Rhonda Magee. Rhonda Magee is a lawyer and mindfulness meditation teacher: “To be alive as a human being is to have inherited much.” I really just believe that if we’re willing to look at our own experiences carefully, we have unlimited capacity to help transform the world. So we should be encouraged to be our beautiful, unique selves and know that our voices are incredibly needed in the world at this time.

I thank you for your practice.