Guided Meditation: Insight
Adapted from Daniel J. Siegel’s Insight Meditation in his book, Mindsight, this 9-
minute meditation helps us to see that we can observe our mental activity without being swept away by it. Our thoughts are not our identity and we can connect to our true selves through mindfulness meditation.
Our guided meditations are best practiced by listening to the podcast, so here is the audio for your convenience.
If you prefer to read through the meditation first, here you go!
The best method for increasing our mindfulness is meditation, so I invite you now to join me as we learn to bring our attention and focus on this present moment. Let’s prepare for our session. Sit comfortably straight, not rigid, to allow air to flow freely through your body. If you are sitting in a chair, move forward so that you are not relying on the back of the chair for support. If you sit on the floor, use a cushion or folded blanket so that your knees are slightly lower than your hips.
I suggest you breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth, but if you can’t, it’s fine. Just breathe in whatever way is most comfortable for you. As you begin to relax, note that you may experience bodily sensations while meditating. Salivation. Grumbling stomach. It’s just your prefrontal cortex waking up so it’s not a problem. If during meditation you experience too much discomfort, physically or emotionally, simply stop and take a couple of deep breaths. Perhaps drink a little water. You can return to the meditation if you like or you can simply stop and try again later.
Give yourself permission to take this break away from your tasks and responsibilities. Take a nice deep breath in, relax the body, and breathe out. We’re now ready to meditate together.
With your eyes open at first, try this. Try letting your attention go to the center of the room. Now, just notice your attention as you let it go to the far wall. And now follow your attention as it comes back to the middle of the room. Bring it up close as if you were holding a book at reading distance. Notice how your attention can go to very difference places.
Now allow your attention go inward. You might let your eyes close at this point or soften your gaze. Get a sense inside yourself of your body in space where you’re sitting in the room. And now let yourself just become aware of the sounds around you. That sense of sound can fill your awareness.
Let your awareness now find the breath wherever you feel it most prominently – whether it’s at the level of your nostrils, the air going in and out, or the level of your chest as it goes up and down, or the level of your abdomen going inward and outward. Perhaps you’ll even just notice your whole body breathing. Wherever it comes naturally, just let your awareness ride the wave of your in-breath and then your out-breath.
When you come to notice, as often happens, that your mind may have wandered and become lost in a thought or a memory, a feeling, a worry, when you notice that, just take note of it and gently, lovingly, return your awareness toward the breath – wherever you feel it – and follow that wave of the in-breath, and the outbreath.
The mind is like the ocean. And deep in the ocean, beneath the surface, it is calm and clear. And no matter what the surface conditions are like, whether it’s smooth or choppy or even a full-strength gale up there, deep in the ocean it’s tranquil and serene. From the depth of the ocean you can look toward the surface and simply notice the activity there, just as from the depth of the mind you can look upward toward the waves, the brain waves at the surface of your mind. All of that activity of mind – the thoughts, feelings, sensations, and memories. Enjoy this opportunity to just observe those activities at the surface of your mind.
At times, it may be helpful to let your attention go back to the breath, and follow the breath to re-ground yourself in the tranquil place at the deepest depth of the mind. From this place, it is possible to become aware of the activities of the mind without being swept away by them, to discern that those are not the totality of who you are. That you are more than just your thoughts. More than your feelings. You can have those thoughts and feelings and also be able to just notice them with the wisdom that they are not your identity. They are simply one part of the mind’s experience. If it is helpful to you, name the type of mental activity that occurs, like “feeling” or “thinking,” “remembering” or “worrying.” This can help allow these activities of the mind to be noted as events that come and go. Let them gently float away and out of awareness.
Now notice that we have a choice about where we send our attention. Without preconceived ideas or judgments, this mindful awareness, this receptive attention, brings us into a tranquil place where we can be aware of and know all elements of our experience.
Like the calm depths of the sea inside, the center of our inner awareness is a place of tranquility, of safety, of openness and curiosity. It is from this safe and open place that we can explore the nature of the mind with equanimity, energy, and concentration. This insight of our mind is always available to us, right now. And it is from this insight that we enter a compassionate state of connection to ourselves, and feel compassion for others.
Let’s focus on our breath for another moment, together, opening the spacious center of our minds to the beauty and wonder of what is.
When you are ready, take a deep breath and gently let your eyes open or refocus your gaze. Try to remember throughout your day that regardless of how turbulent the surface waters of life appear, you can always direct your attention inward, where it is tranquil and safe.