Living in Orange County it is easy to pick up on how we label everyone and everything around us from careers, homes, cars and body types.  In the ordinary sense labeling people, places and things comes from judgment or some critical analysis.  In Jack Kornfields book “Meditation for Beginners” labeling takes on a whole new meaning.  From the point of view of training the brain to let go of the constant flow of thoughts, we can employ “labels” to bring our attention and awareness back to the simplicity of the moment.

As we first learn to practice meditation we start out by labeling the inhale and the exhale as they occur.  The mind will become bored with this task very quickly and all the aches, pains, and tension of the body will show up.  Then we can move this labeling technique to the body by noting sensations and pausing before we DO anything, just sitting back and labeling the experiences and watching how things change from one moment to the next.

Next the monkey mind comes into play.  It doesn’t like just sitting there marking the breath and sensations so it races in with a barrage of thoughts, feelings, and ideas about the past and the future!  Here is where labeling really comes in handy.  As we notice a thought happening, we can stop it midstream, just by saying to ourselves “thinking”!  We can label it even more specifically if we like, for example we can say to ourselves, “anxiety”, “fantasy”, “future” or “past”!  This shows the monkey who is boss and gives us a CHOICE, lost in thought, or present in the moment, with relaxed concentration conducting the orchestra!!  Put those monkeys back in the barrel and label them QUIET!!

The Practice:

Find a comfortable spot to sit, support your back and your knees and keep the back of your neck long and relaxed by slightly lowering your chin.  Close your eyes or allow your gaze to rest softly on a spot on the floor.  Let your hands rest in your lap or on your legs.  Take three deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth, like your blowing on a candle, but as slowly as possible on the exhale.  Notice the sensations in your body as your inner engine slows down.  If something stands out in your awareness LABEL IT, 3 times!

Now allow the breath to flow easily in and out of the nose and as you breathe in, silently label it “inhale” and do the same on the “exhale”.  Do this 3 times!  Now scan your body from your feet up to the crown of your head.  As you do so, label what you become aware of, “foot foot foot”, “hands, hands hands”, “itch, itch, itch”, each time labeling 3 times and then just letting it go.  You are starting to become the keen observer, whose only job is to stop, listen, feel and breathe in the moment.  It’s sort of like being the sky, no matter what happens, rain, stars, clouds; you remain the same, constant, present.

Finally as the monkeys come in carrying with them hundreds of thoughts, you will catch yourself disappearing into one of them.  Gently say to yourself, “thinking, thinking, thinking” or “past, past, past” and let it go.  Return to the awareness of the moment, the itch or tingling sensation, the sounds.  You will see that when you label your experiences you are finally simply being there and something in you just lets go!Image

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