[0:00, guided meditation begins]
So that the posture itself is reflecting a balance of easefulness, of comfort, but also of uprightness. Probably the most important thing with the posture is that the spine, the back is upright but not rigid, just comfortably upright. The posture reflects this uprightness, but also reflects a sense of softness and a sense of openness, just as much as possible, particularly the chest area. Just nice, and as open and soft, relaxed as possible.
Beginning, just checking into the face, and how the face feels right now. So noticing any obvious areas of tension, perhaps around the eyes, around the mouth, jaw. And just noticing, and as much as possible for right now, just relaxing those areas of tension. Don't have to get rid of all of it right now.
And coming down into the throat area, the neck, and again, just noticing any obvious areas of tension, relaxing as much as possible. Shoulders, letting them drop down towards the floor. The upper back, just relaxing. The chest area. And the belly, the abdomen. And particularly the lower belly, just really letting go of any holding there, letting it hang down towards the floor.
And just feeling into the sense, the simple, physical sense of the body sitting here right now. Sense of contact with the floor, contact with the cushion, with the bench, with the chair. Just feeling that. Sense of the whole body sitting.
[3:57] When you feel ready, beginning by taking some long, slow breaths. So not necessary to move a lot of air. Just as long and slow as is comfortable. Long, slow in-breaths. Long, slow out-breaths. Establishing an awareness that fills the whole body, so a wide awareness. Filling the body with awareness, filling the body with the energy of the breath.
Keeping the breath long and slow for now, seeing if you can notice, as the breath comes in, the whole body just subtly expanding with the in-breath. And then contracting with the out-breath. Just feeling that in the whole body.
[6:24] May also notice, when the breath comes in, and the body expands, the body is also energized. There's a feeling of the in-breath energizing the whole body as it comes in. And just seeing, perhaps, if it's possible to pick up on that, that sense of being energized. Or just staying with the sense of the expansion of the whole body. Just tuning into that.
Seeing if you can notice, too, with the out-breath, there's a kind of letting go, relaxing, that happens with the out-breath. So energizing, expanding the whole body with the in-breath. Relaxing, letting go, contracting the whole body with the out-breath. Just tuning into those qualities, feeling those qualities.
[10:20] So, keeping the breath long and slow, comfortable. Keeping the awareness large, filling the whole body with awareness. No need to fight with sounds. Just relaxing, allowing, being, as fully as you can, present, alive to the breath, the life of the breath in the body.
And just in a very relaxed and delicate way, seeing if you can notice, how does it feel up the front of the body when the breath comes in? So very delicate, just seeing. Maybe you can feel something, maybe not. Breath comes in and out. What happens up the front of the body? How does it feel in the face when the breath comes in and out? Just noticing, very light attention. So maybe you feel something. That's fine. Or just to be with the sense of the whole body expanding, contracting, being energized, and letting go. Whichever way is fine.
How does it feel in the legs when the breath comes in and out? Just noticing. Very light.
So awareness will tend to keep shrinking. And just keep establishing a large awareness, an awareness that fills the whole body, sensitive to the breath in the whole body. Alive to the breath.
[20:24] And seeing if you can discern, right now, what the most comfortable, the most enjoyable way for the body to breathe is right now. So that may mean keeping the breath long. It may mean a shorter breath, or a much shorter breath. A rough breath or a smooth breath. Coarse breath or a subtle breath. Just seeing what [is] the way of breathing that feels the most enjoyable, the most comfortable and easeful. Not the default breath, necessarily, the ordinary breath, but just, what feels the best in the body? Just seeing if you can get a sense for that right now, and allowing yourself to breathe that way. And to feel that in the whole body.
[23:52] So keeping the awareness as large as the whole body. If there is sometimes a sense of comfort, of ease, or even enjoyment of the breath, just really allowing yourself to feel that as part of the meditation. Sometimes, of course, it's not possible that the breath feels comfortable, and we can't find a way of breathing that feels comfortable. Not a problem. Just seeing if you can relax around that sense of discomfort. Awareness accommodates that discomfort.
[27:41] When the mind moves, as it will, pulled by sounds or by thoughts, just noticing that. Just noticing. No need to analyse where it went or why. Just noticing. No need to judge. Just returning to the breath, to the feeling of the breath in the body, in a really full and alive way, very engaged way.
For the last minute or so of the sitting, letting the breath go, and allowing the awareness to open in a very wide way. Just a very relaxed, spacious awareness, tuning into the realm of sound, of hearing. So the mindfulness just open, and receiving sounds, receiving silence. No need to figure out what the sounds are, or where they're coming from. Just the bare sounds, coming and going, arising and passing in awareness. Very open. Very allowing.
[31:32, guided meditation ends]
So there are many ways to work with the breath, and that was, in a way, just a sort of little guided meditation with one specific way. It doesn't really matter which way you use. I'm really happy either way. Later on, I'll just very briefly introduce another couple options, if you're still a little bit unsure. But feel free to use whatever works for you.
So now we'll have a period of walking meditation. Where are we walking, James? Is it downstairs?
Yogi: Well, there are several places that are possible, Rob. Obviously, there's room for some people in here, and I think you'll be giving instructions ...
Rob: I'll give instructions now.
Yogi: ... in here for people who want them. There's also room on this landing, at the other end of the landing. And there's room downstairs, directly below here. There's also a little courtyard you can venture into, if you think the rain is going to hold off as well. Or find a private space anywhere else around the building, really. There'll be a bell rung around the building about five minutes before the end of the walking period. So that will be plenty of time to come back here without need to rush.
Rob: Thanks. Okay. So as James said, if you're very comfortable with walking meditation, you can just go right ahead, but I will also give some instructions. So if anyone wants, even if you're old hand at walking meditation. Right, so I'll do that. [laughter]
So walking meditation -- completely equal practices. Unfortunately, all the Buddha statues are sitting. There are very few you actually see walking. But they're completely equal practices. The principal focus in walking meditation, for the most part, is the body sensations. How does it actually feel like to walk? What does it feel like to walk? So breathing and walking are not particularly extraordinary -- on one level, they're very ordinary kind of facts of our life. They're so ordinary that we tend to overlook them. Part of the thrust of this kind of meditation is coming alive to what is most ordinary in our life, and discovering the beauty of it. So human beings have this capacity to walk on the earth, and there's something, I don't know, miraculous about that. But it's something that we don't pay much attention to. So in the meditation, it's about really connecting with that, connecting with the mystery of walking.
So for the practice, it's very much a question of really going nowhere in this meditation. So probably to have a path, maybe somewhere between a third and two-thirds or three-quarters of the width of this room, or even longer. But a definite sense of two points within/between which one is walking, rather than just sort of amble around the very pleasant streets of Cambridge. It's very contained.
Then you can begin at one end of your path. And just standing. Just begin just by standing. So really feel, what does it feel like to stand? What does it feel like for the body to stand? Just centre the awareness in the sense, the simplest sense of the body standing. So how does it feel, feet connecting with the floor or the earth? And how does it feel in the rest of the body, the musculature holding? You don't have to get into anatomy with this. But just, how does it feel, the actual sense? So a lot of this practice is about going underneath the concepts and images and views we have of even things like a 'leg' and a 'muscle' and stuff. Just how does it actually feel? You can stand for as long you like, just in the sense of standing.
[36:25] And when you feel ready, begin to walk, and with awareness in the body. So there are a couple parameters here. You can walk at any pace you want. So sometimes you see people doing super-slow walking, like you actually have to, "Are they moving or not moving?" And we tend to think, "Wow! Super-slow. They must be really spiritual or something." [laughter] There's no correlation between speed and depth of anything. Slow is just slow, okay? But if it feels really helpful to walk slow, walk slow. If it feels helpful to walk briskly, walk briskly. Again, it's your practice. There's a sense of responsiveness in practice, and finding what's helpful in that time. What does it feel, to really feel most connected to what's going on? What kind of pace of walking? That's one parameter.
The other parameter is kind of the size of the lens of awareness. So one could be really focused: just pay attention to, say, the soles of the feet. How do they feel? So there's the press, the touch, the pressure, and then the other one moves. And actually moving, there's a strange sensation in that sole of the feet as one's moving here. So, very focused on a very small area. Fine, great. Or one could have, the camera lens has a wider aperture. Could be the lower leg or the whole leg, or again, the whole body, whole-body awareness. What's helpful at that time? Okay? So very focused awareness -- extremely helpful, sometimes. Large, spacious awareness -- extremely helpful, sometimes. So feel what feels helpful for you. And one walks, and the mind will drift, and one keeps coming back to the body.
[38:17] And you can stop at any point. So just stop in the middle of the path if you feel something's going on, and you feel distracted or uncentred. Just stop again, and just stand. Just feel the standing, and centre yourself in that. One reaches the end, and come to the end, you can stand again. So really take your time. There's really, literally nowhere to go, just going up and down. And really stand again. And then even the turning can be something done with complete awareness. How does it feel? And just discover the beauty and a peace, just in the life of the body, how it actually feels. And then beginning again, walking. So, very simple practice. If you haven't done it before, what it looks like when a bunch of people are doing that is that you've just walked into a kind of mental asylum or something. [laughter] I think no one else is in the building, so ... [laughter] We're all right. But after a while you just kind of get into that, so don't let that put you off.
Any questions about the walking, about the walking practice? No? Okay, good. So, will ...? Jen's ringing the bell? John will ring the bell at, well, five minutes before the next sitting. And then we'll meet again for sitting at 11:30-ish. Okay.