Practices and Exercises

Welcome to our Program Archive

This page is part of our archive of past program activities.

The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society works to support the contemplative dimension of teaching, learning and knowing in higher education. We invite you to learn more about our current initiatives.

I. Intuitive Writing

  • Choose a quiet space where you will not be disturbed.
  • Do a simple breathing meditation to clear and focus your mind and cultivate awareness.
  • Optional: Write a question. Write a few lines on anything you would like intuitive guidance on. Focusing on one question ensures optimal clarity. For example, How can I become a much more effective in my job? (work); Why do I have such difficulty developing healthy eating habits? (health); or How can I have a stronger relationship with my family? (relationships).
  • Start to write. Write whatever comes. Don’t think, and don’t judge what you are writing. Write whatever comes out of the pen. If you get stuck, start writing, “I feel stuck.” Keep your pen moving! Keep writing, and don’t think about where it is coming from.
  • Write for 5, 10 or 15 minutes. You’ll know when you’re done.
  • When done, read through you have written out loud, and see how it makes you feel.
  • Try to distinguish if you are writing from your intuition or your rational mind. Keep Practicing!

 

II. Mindful Breathing and Sitting as a Meditation

Mindful breathing and sitting (meditation) helps to relax and focus the mind. Just 5 minutes a day can make you feel more refreshed and energetic. Here are some guidelines for practicing mindful breathing and sitting:

  • Make a special time and place for “non–doing”.
  • Adopt an alert and relaxed body posture.
  • Look dispassionately at the reactions and habits of your mind.
  • Bring your attention to your breathing by counting silently “1” on inhalation and “2” on exhalation, “3” on inhalation, etc. When you reach number “10”, return to number “1”. (If you go beyond the number 10, then you know your mind has wandered).
  • When your mind wanders, name what it wanders to and come back to the breathing and counting.
  • Once you have practiced focusing on your breathing, you can use sensation, sound or watching thoughts as your point of concentration.
  • You cannot prevent stressful situations in life, but you can control your reactions to them. Practicing mindfulness can help.

The beliefs surrounding Mindfulness stem from the Buddhist faith and are used in many Eastern cultures. The practical use of Mindfulness outlined herein was extrapolated from the teachings of Jon Kabat-Zinn.

 

III. Talisman

In this activity, each participant brings an object and shares its story with the group. The object should in some way communicate, symbolize, or express what matters to you and your passion for your work—your work with youth, in the arts, for social change, etc. It can be an ordinary object, an old favorite, a photo, or something you have made. Everyone will tell a story and we will build a “table of inspiration” with the objects.

At one retreat of environmental activists, everyone brought something that was symbolic of his or her relationship to the natural world. Each object served as an opening to a story. One by one, people walked to the center of the room, placed their “talisman” in the center of the room and told their story. Magical stories unfolded: of standing protected between a mother elephant’s legs, of how to teach foresters to feel the essence of trees marked for timber, of cleaning the oil from ducks after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, of gifts given and received.

 

IV. Walking or Movement Meditation

In this meditation, the focus is on the movement of your body while being mindful of one’s surroundings, and this helps to quiet the mind. As you walk take note of each step you make, the placement of your feet, the feelings in your toes, ankles, legs or your entire body. In the beginning, commit to a 5 minute walk and slowly build to 20 minutes, then an hour.

To begin:

  • Select a path, preferably outdoors.
  • Stand briefly to center and balance yourself. Concentrate on your feet at the point of contact with the earth.
  • Release tension in your arms and allow them to hang freely.
  • Softly gaze your eyes a few feet in front of you.
  • Begin walking at a slow, but normal pace. And as you walk, place your awareness in the beginning on one part of your feet—big toe, space beneath feet and ground, or heel. Over time, take note of each step, the lift of the leg, the heel making contact, the roll onto the ball of the foot, other parts of your body, your breathing, body temperature, the wind on your face, and so on. Concentrate on your feelings; notice your thoughts, allowing them to dissolve.
  • Relax and enjoy your walk.

(Taken in part from Meditation in Action, Daily Om, November 22, 2004)

Some Benefits of Walking Meditation

  • Helps to focus the mind before a sitting meditation.
  • Develops balance and concentration.
  • Provides an opportunity for personal insights to arise.
  • Increases stamina for meditation and mindfulness of movement.
  • Contributes to good health by reviving muscles and stimulating circulation.
  • Assists digestion, minimizing sluggishness.