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rising and falling

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The basic tool in meditation is to count breaths: 1=inhale, 2=exhale, 3=and-so-on-till-you-reach-10 and start again. Whenever your mind wonders off, start again from one. I don’t do all that well with this method: my mind wanders all over the place and I rarely make it past three.

A monk in Thailand taught me to place the palm of one hand on my belly, about a hand’s width above the navel. And, as the belly expands and contracts, to silently say the words “rising” and “falling.” I find this very helpful. It gives my chattering mind something to do, provides my body with a tactile reminder, and generally helps me stay focused. Monkey mind wonders off less frequently and when it does, I escort the mind’s attention to the hand on my belly. Again and again.

I host a twice-weekly meditation group at work. It’s a joy to see a volunteer, a physician, a patient in a wheelchair, a nurse, and someone from the office sitting together for half-an-hour. We typically end a session by expanding our awareness to people who aren’t sitting with us: patients in their beds, loved-ones at the bedside, and fellow-workers. This opens our heart of compassion as we meditate for the benefit of all beings.

image: http://www.masterkamal.com

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