Acupuncture and Meditation
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(Last updated July 2011)
Contents Counting Backward Meditation
by Erich Schiffmann
(This is the first meditation instruction I received. It was part of a yoga teacher training I took in 2004. It was this sitting practice that started me on my meditation journey. -NR)
In this exercise you will be counting backward from fifty to zero, synchronizing the counting with your breathing. You'll count the even numbers as you exhale and the odd numbers as you inhale.
Sit with your back straight and your eyes closed. If you can sit comfortably on the floor, do so. Otherwise, use a chair. Be comfortable.
Begin by breathing in gently, fully. As yell exhale, mentally say "fifty." As you breathe in again, mentally say "forty-nine," exhale "forty-eight," inhale "forty-seven," exhale "forty-six" ... and so on.
Count backward on both the in-breath and the out-breath until you reach "twenty," then count only on exhales. Silently count "twenty" as you exhale. Then, instead of counting "nineteen" on the in-breath, do nothing, just inhale. With the next exhalation count "nineteen" ... and so on until you reach zero. When you reach zero, stop counting, but stay aware of the natural flow of breath in exactly the same way as when you were counting. Watch the breath as though you were going to count, but don't count. As you do this, practice sitting absolutely still. But don't hold yourself still. Simply be so relaxed that no movement occurs.
Be very aware of how you feel as you do this--how peaceful, energized, calm. Notice how pleasantly alert you are, how serene, fearless, at ease. Familiarize yourself with this feeling, with the feeling-tone of being centered and at peace, and rest here another two or three minutes. Absorb the stillness. Then prepare yourself, open your eyes, and return. This will take six or seven minutes.
As you do this exercise, breathe normally. Do not do deep breathing or control the breath in any way. This is important. You are learning not to be in control. You are learning to get out of the way. Therefore, rather than controlling the breath, allow it to flow freely in and out at its own natural pace. Yet, stay aware of the breath. Keep track of the numbers. As the breath comes in, count. As the breath goes out, count. And when you reach zero, stay aware of the breath nonverbally. There should be no strain in your breathing as you do this. Keep it soft and easy.
As you count backward, you may be more aware than usual of your mind darting rapidly from one object of attention to another. You may be unusually aware of sounds, physical sensations, or thoughts. You may lose count altogether. None of this matters. All of these things are evidence that the technique is working. You're becoming more aware.
The value of this technique lies in its ability to help you notice where your attention is from moment to moment, what's in your mind, and the contents of your consciousness. The counting is not only a centering device and a way of developing concentration, of training your mind to focus, it also acts as a backdrop on which your thoughts become very apparent.
For now, however, do not do anything with the various thoughts or sensations that arise. Simply be aware of them and continue counting. Gradually become more aware, more quiet within yourself, and increasingly dynamically still. As you immerse yourself in your stillness--and this is something that improves with each attempt--you will experience an unexpected and immensely satisfying sense of contentment and ease. Feel the peace.
Reprinted by permission of the author.
From Erich Schiffmann's website, www.movingintostillness.com
Sakyong Mipham: Turning the Mind Into an Ally - This is my personal favorite - a wonderful book of wit and grace, with straight forward sitting instruction.
Thich Nhat Hanh: Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life
Erich Schiffmann: Yoga The Spirit And Practice Of Moving Into Stillness
Jon Kabat-Zinn: Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness
Saki Santorelli: Heal Thy Self: Lessons on Mindfulness in Medicine.
(Especially recommended for health professionals)
And here are two locations that offer free meditation instruction and practice opportunities:
The Meditation Place
940 Kimbark St
Longmont, CO 80501
Boulder Shambhala Meditation Center
1345 Spruce St.
Boulder, CO 80302
Tel. 303 444 0190
The website also has online instruction of getting started:
New York Insight Meditation Center
28 West 27th Street, 10th floor
New York, New York 10001
There are so many wonderful poems that help use to pause and savor the moment and/or reflect upon the experience of mindfulness.
Here are two recommended by my friend and colleague, Richard Kowal, DC.
This is how a human being can change -
There's a worm addicted to eating
Suddenly, he wakes up,
call it grace, whatever, something
wakes him, and he's no longer a worm.
He's the entire vineyard,
and the orchard too,
the fruit, the trunks,
a growing wisdom and joy
that doesn't need
-- 'The Worm's Waking' by Jallaludin Rumi, in Delicious Laughter: Rambunctious Teaching Stories from the Mathnawi of Jeluddin Rumi, versions by Coleman Barks, 1990, Maypop Books, Athens Georgia, page 127
Stilled, one stops;
stopping, one lets go;
letting go, one passes through;
passing through, one is
-- William Segal