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Finding Stones in Mountains: Discover the Six Paths to a Deeper Mindfulness Prac

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Finding Stones in Mountains
[]Discover the Six Paths to a

Deeper Mindfulness Practice

Josh C. Flowers

Copyright © 2017 Josh C. Flowers. All Rights Reserved.

The author is in no way liable for any misuse of this material.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Guided Mindfulness Prompts

Stones in Mountains

Introduction

An Invitation: Using the Prompts

Working with Environmental Stimuli

Little Details

Food

A Favorite Tune

Words

Nature

Seeing Sound

Toes in the Grass

Colors

Addictions

Working with Cognitions

Honing the Blade/Following the Clouds

Intentional Imagination

Turning Down Thoughts

Narratives

Mantra

Working with Body/Somatic Experiences

Proprioception

Ship

Center of Me

Body Awareness

Stuck Point Release

Pleasure/Pain

Working with Emotional States

Stories

What Is In?

Welcome

Heart Space

Gratitude

Transitions

Working with Transpersonal States

Tracking with Awareness

Earth Embrace

Birth/Death

Darkness

Symbols

Being with Beings

Working with Relationships/Returning

Reflection

Circle of Support

Hug

Coming and Going

Gazing

Touch into Infinity

Spirit Animals

Spirit in Everything

Conclusion

About the Author

Connect

Further Reading

Guided Mindfulness Prompts

If you would like audio versions of some of the prompts, I have put together a few guided mindfulness prompts that you can download. Here is the link to sign up for your free MP3: joshcflowers.com/guided-audio/

You can also follow me on social media to find out about other giveaways and updates on upcoming books. Feel free to connect and let me know if there are other guided prompts you would like to have audio versions of.

Facebook: joshcflowers.writer

Instagram: joshcflowers_

Twitter: joshcflowers_

For lack of attention a thousand forms of loveliness elude us every day.

—Evelyn Underhill

Stones in Mountains

I was in the Swiss Alps being propelled up the side of a mountain by a gondola. As I looked down at the rocky terrain below I saw the remains of an old mining camp. What an incredible feat, to strike out into the heart of this treacherous landscape, risking one’s life in hopes of finding something of value. I am unsure of what type of rock or mineral they sought but was curious about how they knew that this was the right location to set up shop.

I’m guessing that there were clues littered about the landscape. Little signs, pointing to the possibility of treasure below. What did these miners see beyond these inspiring mountains, that lured them up here?

I can picture a group of rugged individuals combing over this formidable mountain range, pausing below these sheer cliffs, completely absorbed by the details in the rocks at their feet. I’m curious if they came to love these mountains for more than the treasure they found at the bottom of their mine shafts. The majesty of these jagged peaks and snow covered summits had to stir their spirits. But that wasn’t what brought them here initially.

Imagining these miners and their quest, I am reminded of our own journey through this life. How we wander through the mountainous terrain of existence. The summits of success and the valleys of defeat. The daily struggle to climb ever-higher, to get ahead in our own unique way. The dangers that life requires us to face. The emotional risks we take to secure something meaningful.

Like the miners, there was a time that each of us knew what to look for amidst these mountains that spread out toward the unknown future of our lives. As children, we paid attention to the small things. We knew where to focus our attention, knew where the treasures of life were stored.

The details that we found in something as simple as a ball, could fascinate us for hours. The family dog could capture our attention completely, sending us into joyful hysterics with a lick from its tongue. Without having to understand it, we lived into our experiences. The wonders that captivated us gave life depth. We interacted with the small details littered about the surface and these details became doors into the treasures that lie beneath. Treasurers of joy and wonder.

As we grew older, we found and embraced our egos. We allowed thoughts and judgments to dominate our experiences and the magic was turned down a few notches. We became distracted. Lost time for slowing down and engaging with the little details that were present throughout our days. Forgot about the treasures below, as we kept our eyes up toward the summit, the goals we set out to achieve for our lives. Only the obvious beauty held much attraction for us. It had to be extraordinary, or else it wasn’t worth our time.

Learning to see again, as we did when we were children, is mindfulness. A returning to something familiar, something that was an integral part of our early experiences.

Though our lives are vast and at times navigating them feels a bit daunting, if we take the time to pause and look beyond the summits to the small details, we realize that a beautiful, awe-inspiring depth surrounds and penetrates us. We may even find that after spending time with the little miracles, that when we look back up at the high peaks, we experience them with an even greater sense of gratitude.

Introduction

To notice what is, the depths and layers of all that is around us and inside us. The quality of these experiences, so often dulled by the veil of our chattering mind. To notice with intention, pierces this veil and a whole forgotten world comes flooding back in. We become reconnected with astonishment at the world around us: awestruck by the beauty of a flower; perplexed by the many subtle aromas of our morning coffee; filled with gratitude by the sensations experienced in a hug or by holding someone’s hand. It is a process of becoming reacquainted with the joy found in the many miracles of our lived experience.

We become curious about what else might be in these experiences. Perhaps, in these small wonders, we will even encounter the Divine, the common thread that unites us all.

There is a wide range of ways in which we can practice mindfulness—from how we engage with our environment to how we notice our own thoughts, the whole world can be a resource for practice. In fact, we don’t even need to go out into the world for this; Our very beings offer a virtual playground for exploration. We can practice by diving deeper into an emotion or taking an intentional journey inward to explore the depths of our unconscious.

As we interact with our world, we realize that there are ever-increasing subtleties to our experiences. Noticing how something feels as we touch it is a way of practicing mindfulness. What happens when we lean a bit further into the act of touching? What do we notice about the layers of the experience? Can we let it become a focused event without thinking about what it is we’re doing? Starting out, even this is difficult to do.

We have had years of practice letting our minds wander about, taking us on a perpetual ride, commenting on and evaluating every little thing. To actually set this chatter-box aside, and just be with the thing we are doing, can feel like a complicated process. But once we learn to interact with our external world in this way it becomes easier. Then we can move on to another level of practice, say, observing emotions or sensations.

So, this is what we will be exploring: the six paths (listed below) in which we can find a smorgasbord of experiences to interact with in a more meaningful way. By doing so, our lives become richer, brighter. When we begin to notice that there is an infinite number of possibilities we realize that we have no excuse. We can practice and enjoy mindfulness anywhere and anytime.

We will go into each of these in more detail at the beginning of each chapter, but for now, these are the aspects of our lived experience that offer access points for mindful practice. The six paths of practice are:

Environmental: Environment and environmental stimuli

Cognitive: Thoughts and mental processes; imagination and beliefs

Somatic: Our bodies and sensations

Emotional: Our moods, feelings, and energetic responses

Transpersonal: States beyond personal identity/ego

Relational: Connections with ourselves, others, and the earth

The first five paths become increasingly more subtle. For example, it is more challenging to detect the nuances of an emotion than of an object that we hold in our hand. By practicing with the easier paths first, by the time you begin working with transpersonal (beyond ego) states, you’ll have enough mindfulness tools to navigate the terrain with confidence.

Though the final path in the stages, relational, may not be as difficult to work with in terms of its subtle nature, I have placed it at the end for a reason. Doing this work is like the Hero’s Journey, described by Joseph Campbell, and an important part of our mindfulness journey also involves a returning.

We do our personal work, but what we gain does not stay with us alone. We bring it back to our homes, our communities. As we practice mindfulness, we begin to notice the benefits in our own lives. Then, we get to share what we’ve learned. We begin to interact with others in healthier ways. The world benefits from us slowing down and opening up to our experience with it.

[* An Invitation: Using the Prompts*]

Each of the following chapters will focus on one of the six paths of practice. Each path will start with a brief introduction followed by five or more prompts. The start of each prompt will be indicated by this symbol ♦. There are a total of forty prompts that you can work with.

If you already have a regular mindfulness practice, I invite you to start by working with the prompts for ten to twenty minutes a day. If this is all new to you, starting with five to ten minutes might be better. Some of the exercises (especially in the first few paths) require less time, so you can combine a few of them during your practice. Setting a timer that has a chime or soft bell is a helpful way to end the session and allows for a gentle transition out of the practice.

I find that practicing before 7 a.m., the mind seems less distracted by thoughts. But, we all have different schedules so go with whatever feels right for you.

It can be helpful to make your practice a routine. And, routines fall in line best when performed at regular intervals. So, as much as it is possible, try to stick to practicing around the same time each day.

It can also help to pick a trigger, which works for positive habits in the same way it does for negative ones. For example, we feel stressed (trigger), we reach for a cigarette or other drug/food of choice (behavior). Perform this routine enough times and the grooves are worn into our brains, making it a habit. So, with mindfulness practice, if you want it to stick, do the same thing. For example, if you have a cup of tea every morning after breakfast, follow drinking tea (trigger) with your mindfulness practice (new behavior).

If you miss a day, be easy on yourself, and pick the practice up again the next day. Try not to miss more than two days in a row as this makes it more difficult to have the positive habit stick.

If, like most of us, you find it challenging to start a new habit, check out Zenhabits.net. Leo offers some simple and insightful guidance on this topic.

Also, there are lots of great apps out there for tracking new habits. I have found HabitBull helpful. It can be inspiring to get a visual of all the days you have linked together by doing your new habit, a day at a time. See how many days in a row you can practice a mindfulness skill. Set a goal and reward yourself when you reach it.

Once you find that this is a practice that you have been able to work into your daily routine, try to increase the time in practice. Carving out twenty or thirty minutes a day can have an extraordinary impact on your life.

Though you can jump around to different prompts, I have put these in an order that builds upon itself. If you are new to practicing mindfulness, you will likely find that you are less discouraged if you follow the sequence laid out.

Plus, some of the more advanced techniques (like Tracking with Awareness) work best if you are familiar with different levels of mindfulness so that you are comfortable switching between them and able to follow your intuition without having to think about if you are “doing it correctly.”

There are three things that I find most helpful in practicing mindfulness:

1. Letting go of judgments

2. Acknowledging thoughts

3. Gently bringing yourself back to the practice (again and again)

Many people think the goal is to not have one single thought while practicing this. Really, what you’ll be doing over and over and over, again and again, is coming back to mindful awareness after following yet another thought down a rabbit trail.

If you can do anything to help this practice go smoothly it would be to not judge the experience. You don’t have to label the session as “good” or “bad.” It doesn’t help to determine if you “did it right” or “failed.” It is easy to fall into this trap and it can quickly lead to discouragement and abandoning your practice altogether.

It is natural to want to benefit from taking the time to practice mindfulness. We want to experience the fruits of our commitment to trying something new and positive. Yet, judging whether you are benefiting from the practice or not, can cause you to be blinded to the subtle changes that are taking place.

Often, you may not notice any changes at first. This is what makes this work so exciting. The positive changes sneak up on you, surprise you. It’s almost like you are being transformed without even being “mindful” of it. One day you wake up to find that you have been paying more attention to the beauty around you, allowing it to fill you with a sense of joy. You notice that you are grateful for the sensation of the breeze on your skin. You realize that thoughts haven’t been taking you along for the chaotic ride that they used to; you seem better able to let them do their thing: show up and fade away.

Even after years of practice, it can seem like you are still easily compelled to jump back on the carousel of thoughts. This is okay. Remember, no judgment. When you realize that you have gotten back on the ride and are going round and round, simply pause, acknowledge the thought by inwardly saying, “thinking,” and then return to the practice. Then repeat, the next time this occurs. And the next . . .

Working with Environmental Stimuli

We use our senses to interact with the world around us. It is a world of shadow and light, a constant stream of textures, sounds, tastes, and smells. We move through our environment, often without noticing what these interactions consist of. Our environment and the stimuli that abound become commonplace, and unless we are out of our element, we tend to ignore them. But what if we took the time to tune into everyday occurrences? What if what we have come to interpret as mundane, actually offers new and exciting experiences when we engage mindfully?

Little Details

There are a thousand little details that we can work with in our mindfulness practice. Picking minute details that go unnoticed without a specific focus can be a great way to train the brain to be more skillful in plumbing the depths of our experiences.

As a therapist, I often lead individuals through guided visualizations during our sessions. Three of the “little details” I have clients notice at the beginning of the guided exercises are:

1. The place where their bodies contact the chair they are sitting on

2. The feeling of their clothes against their skin

3. Their breath

The purpose of these three steps is to begin pointing the mind toward something specific. Each step can sharpen our focus more acutely. We are able to “sink in,” bringing a heightened awareness to the experience.

By ending the three steps with breath awareness, we can then carry this mindfulness tool into the rest of the experience. Breath creates a more relaxed state for our practice. It can help us navigate the experience, focus in on certain aspects, and clear areas of tension.

I invite you to try this sequence, and if you find it helpful in focusing your mind, try adding a short set before the other prompts. We will be using it often in the somatic and transpersonal exercises.

Once you get used to this sequence you can take a minute to sink in before a project at work, a difficult conversation with a partner, your meditation practice, or at the start of each day.

Find a comfortable place to sit. Allow yourself to make any small adjustments so that you are sitting in as relaxed a posture as possible. Now, take a moment to notice how your backside feels as it makes contact with whatever it is you are sitting on. What does it feel like to be supported by this object? Play with noticing the whole surface of contact as well as places that are more prominent. Are there hotspots? Places where there is more cushion? Spots where it feels like it is just bone on a hard surface? Feel the weight of your body pressing against the surface of the object. Stay with the experience as long as you like.

Now, shift your focus to places where your skin comes into contact with your clothes. Can you feel where the cuff of your shirt meets your wrist or upper arm? Notice the weight of the clothes as they hang on your body. Are there certain parts of your body that can sense this contact easier than others? Notice the different sensations between parts that are bare versus parts that are covered. Now choose one point that you want to stay with. Allow your attention to hang out here for a minute. As you bring awareness to this area, does it change at all?

Finally, bring your attention from your body to your breath, as it enters and leaves your body. Notice the difference between the coming and going. Trace your breath all the way down into your belly. Witness the rise and fall of your belly. Stay with the rhythm of it for as long as feels right. When you are finished, noticed the feeling of being grounded. You can carry this into the rest of your day.

Food

This is an exercise that is often used as an introductory to mindfulness practice. Even if you are a seasoned mindfulness practitioner, it can be good to return to the classics. It is amazing how something we do every day and derive so much pleasure from, is actually something that we pay very little attention to while engaged in the activity.

Get a piece of fruit. Raisins or grapes are great for this practice. Before popping it in your mouth take a minute to just feel the texture of the food. Does it have a smell? How about a sound? Squish it a bit next to your ear, now does it?

When you put it in your mouth, let it just rest there for a minute. Move it around with your tongue. Feel it against the inside of your cheek. Are you having to hold yourself back from the tendency to mindlessly chomp away?

When you begin to chew, take time with each bite. Notice the textures. Pay attention to how your tongue, cheeks, and teeth work together. What is the sensation of swallowing like? Imagine the energy that it is providing you. What does it feel like to be nourished by something?

A Favorite Tune

What is one of your favorite songs? I know, for some of us, this one’s tough; there are too many to choose from. Without over thinking it, cue up a tune that you enjoy. It might be helpful to avoid one that is linked to specific memories as this can trigger a running dialogue in your head.

You might already know what your favorite part of the song is: a lyric, a particular solo, a certain rhythm. For this exercise let yourself be surprised by whatever strikes you first. There is so much going on in music. Let yourself pick out one element and follow that through the song. Track it as if it were a wild bird soaring through a forest of sound. If the element you were following fades out, pick up another strand of the music and go with that. As the song concludes, allow yourself to notice what having the experience come to an end is like. What feeling are you left with?

Words

In the Christian mystical tradition, there is a Benedictine practice called Lectio Divina that involves four steps in experiencing sacred texts: reading, reflecting, responding, and resting. This practice can be a profound way to experience the written word, sacred or otherwise.

Find a word or phrase that is meaningful to you. It could be a passage from a sacred text, a poem, your favorite word, or a quote. Take a minute to read the text or word. Then, allow your mind to meditate on it. Let it wonder about the words, their meanings, the impact they have on you. If your thoughts begin to drift toward other subjects, return to the word/text and read it again.

After a period of reading and reflecting, respond to the text. You can say anything—don’t be shy. What did it stir in you? Is there anything you would add? Is there a particular word or sound that stayed with you? Say it out loud. What does it sound like?

Finally, take a few moments to just be with the experience. Without trying to do anything, let whatever comes up, come up.

Nature

When was the last time you were able to spend time in nature? Many of us have been cut off from regular connection to this part of our lives. Even if we can’t pack up the car and head for the hills, we can find elements of nature all around us.

Step outside and pick up a natural object. It can be anything: a blade of grass, a rock, a pine cone (preferably not a living creature—no ants). Take some time relating to this natural object with more than just your brain.

Explore the quality of it with your senses. Feel the weight of it. The texture. What does it feel like against your cheek, your foot? Does it have a smell? A taste? Can it make a sound? What if you help it make a sound? What does it feel like to connect with nature through this object? If you can get a sense of it, allow that connection to remain with you throughout the day.

Seeing Sound

I recently came across a blog post about a woman named Melissa McCracken who has synesthesia and is able to paint what she hears. Check out the blog here and either pick one of the songs (titles are under the paintings) or one of the paintings that you are drawn to. Then cue up the song (you can find a version of any of them on Youtube or Spotify) and let yourself experience the sound and the painting together.

An alternative exercise would be to combine any piece of art with a song that you feel would “match the mood,” and then play the song while gazing at the artwork.

Optional: Save an image of the artwork and project it onto a wall or large screen while listening to the song through headphones.

Allow your attention to be absorbed by both the sounds and what you are seeing. Play with shifting your attention from one to the other. When you allow yourself to open to the experience, where do you find yourself most drawn? Are there other senses besides hearing and seeing that are a part of the experience?

If you notice that you are trying to figure out what part of the song goes with what part of the painting, bring yourself back to seeing and hearing. As the song ends, allow yourself to stay with the image for a moment. Pay attention to anything that you notice in the moment. Do you see any sound?

Toes in the Grass

We often neglect our connection to the earth. There is a new trend called earthing or grounding that encourages regular contact with the earth beneath us. Those who practice this technique do so to benefit from having contact with the earth’s surface electrons. It is considered to be a way to ground one’s being.

If you have access to a patch of grass (and it’s not currently covered with snow), step outside, barefoot, and take some time to notice the sensations of standing and connecting.

If you don’t currently have access to a patch of grass, you can still practice this by using your imagination. Stand on the sidewalk or even on the floor of your home. Allow yourself to connect down through the layers that separate you from the actual earth’s surface. Imagine it in your mind’s eye. The connection is strong when we stop to notice it. Manmade materials aren’t that big of a barrier when you consider how strong the connection is between you and the earth. After all, your bones are made from the same substance.

Feel the earth against the bottoms of your feet. Try to shift between noting what you feel like against the earth and what the earth feels like against you. Wiggle your toes. Take a few steps and notice the changing patterns under your feet. Imagine drawing the earth’s energy up into your body through your feet. Feel it nourishing you. Imagine that you are filling yourself up with this healing energy. Allow it to energize you for the rest of your day. As you finish the exercise, offer up any type of gratitude that feels right for you.

Colors

Another recent fad is adult coloring books. Though there are lots of benefits to this craze, one of them is that it is a great mindfulness tool. Plus, we get to return to something that we enjoyed as kids. Why’d we ever stop?

Get a handful of crayons or markers and a coloring book, or download one for free here. This is a mindfulness exercise so as you brighten the image with color, allow yourself to flow with the process. You don’t have to have a plan about how it will turn out. Just reach for colors and fill the image up with them.

Optional: Color a mandala. You can download one here. There is something deeply relaxing about coloring inside a circle. If it feels right, start on the edges and work your way to the center. Coloring or making your own mandala can be a great tool for integration following some of the transpersonal work we will be exploring later.

Notice how it feels to hold a crayon again. Notice the pressure you use to transfer the color. Play with different strokes and notice small details like the movement of your wrist, the little flecks of crayon on the paper. Be a kid for a minute and go outside the lines.

Notice how different colors make you feel. Don’t forget to pay attention to your breath as you grace the pages with color.

When you’re finished with your masterpiece, put it on the fridge, hang it up in your cubicle, or put it somewhere as a reminder to keep practicing your mindfulness skills.

Addictions

Even if it is not a classic addiction, like drinking alcohol or gambling, we all have something that we do habitually that offers little benefit to our lives. As an addictions counselor, one of the first things I encourage my clients to do is pay attention to an addictive behavior without judgment. Behaviors become addictions when we fail to be mindful of the actions that we are performing on a regular basis. We gain some power over our addictions when we can observe the process and determine the point in which we can pause and insert an alternative—hopefully healthier—behavior.

Pick a habitual behavior or guilty pleasure. It might be something you do when you are stressed or a “reward” you give yourself after a long day. Something that is triggered by an event or an emotion, that you often engage in without even considering it.

Either imagine doing this thing, so that you are familiar with the process next time it comes around, or actually do it right now. That’s right, go get that cigarette from your secret stash. Dig out the pint of ice cream that you’re saving for the next time life’s demands seem to have gotten the upper hand.

During this exercise try not to judge the behavior. Instead, simply pay attention to the process. If there was a preceding event or emotion that may have led you to want to reach outside yourself for a distraction, notice those “triggers.” Allow yourself to feel the urge or craving. If you can, notice where the craving shows up in your body.

What thoughts are you telling yourself on the way to the shopping mall, freezer, liquor store, or internet site? Often these thoughts that go unnoticed are something like, “I deserve this,” or “I’ll stop tomorrow.”

Allow yourself to feel the pleasure of it. How do you know you are feeling pleasure? Notice the ritual: securing the item, the paraphernalia used, how it is consumed. What senses are you using? What are the effects? If guilt is one of them, notice this, then return to the behavior.

Though it may seem counterintuitive, this can be a powerful first step to shifting gears and taking some control back.

Working with Cognitions

Descartes’ famous quote, “I think therefore I am,” can be a bit misleading. Though thoughts influence our perceptions, we can choose not to let them dictate the whole of our reality. We can learn to see ourselves and the world around us from a place beyond our judgments and commentaries (which are often far removed from reality).

We can become observers of our thoughts, watching them like birds flying by overhead. This is not easy. Thoughts often seem to have a life of their own, dragging us about in any direction they choose. It is difficult to wrangle them in. Some try to label them as “good” or “bad” and try to stop the “bad” ones. I find it more helpful to practice noticing any type of thought without judgment.

We can “get off the thought carousel” or “tame the monkey mind.” These popular ways of talking about bringing mindfulness into the equation, remind us that thoughts come and go but we don’t have to latch on for the ride; we don’t have to let their distracting antics obscure what is actually going on. We can use mindfulness to explore thoughts and how they affect our moods and actions. Cognitions are wondrous things if we can turn the table on who is running the show.

Honing the Blade/Following the Clouds

Some thoughts are sharp, others, like clouds drifting. Think about the quality of a thought that you have when engaged in a focused project, when you are in the “flow.” Compare this to thoughts you have when lazing about daydreaming. Both have their purpose, but they are completely different in their nature. One floats about aimlessly while the other pierces, cuts through the distractions.

For this exercise we are going to work on intentionally shifting between these two modes of cognition.

First, think about a particular problem you are trying to solve or project you are working on. Dwell on it with a laser-like focus. This takes practice. Often our mind wants to just chill or wander about without any direction. It feels like work to have to focus on something. Strange how difficult it is to think about thinking. But, stay with it. When you notice that your mind has wandered off, bring it back to the task of focused thought.

Once you feel like you have honed your thoughts on a specific point for a minute or so, let it go. Allow your mind to wander. If you are now stuck in focused mode, try free associating: let your mind associate the topic you were focusing on with anything else it can relate the topic to. When you get completely off topic—your mind starts thinking about your next meal or your to-do list—bring it back to the specific topic and allow yourself to free associate on that topic again.

What do you notice between these two cognitive abilities? What comes more naturally to you?

Intentional Imagination

We can actually trick our brains. By using our imagination, and especially if we bring specific details into the picture, the brain has some difficulty distinguishing between vividly imagined scenes and reality.

If you were into sports, recall your coach encouraging you to spend time before the big game, seeing yourself performing well. My coach had us imagine ourselves at the free-throw line swishing shot after shot. This process of using our mind’s eye to envision certain actions becomes even more powerful when we use all the senses to bring the scene to life: the sound of the crowd, the feel of the ball as it leaves your fingertips, the smell of popcorn and sweat, seeing the net “swish” as the ball glides through it.

For some people, using their imagination to craft vivid scenes comes naturally. For others, it takes some practice. Either way, this mindfulness skill allows you to go through “practice runs” before activities that you want to perform well in. What we find is that much of our stress is related to the unknown. If we have tricked our brain into believing that this is familiar territory, it will likely be kicking out less cortisol (our stress hormone) when we are actually engaged in the activity.

Take a minute to envision yourself performing well in an upcoming task or event. Be mindful of how you create the picture. Bring in as many specific details as you can, using all the senses. Who is in the scene? Who needs to be removed from the scene to make your chance of success more attainable? What smells and sounds do you detect? Are there things you are touching? Take a minute to play the scene out, like a movie in your mind. Pay attention to any emotions that come up as you do so. Run through the scene a few times if you need to. Get it to where you can feel what it is like to be successful at the endeavor.

Turning Down Thoughts

Though there is some controversy over if it actually exists, some neuroscientists believe that there are a few parts of the brain that are involved in mindless, automatic thinking. These scientists consider the Default Mode Network (DMN) to be the culprit in some of the harsh language we inwardly direct at ourselves—self-sabotaging thoughts like, “I’m a failure,” or “I’m ugly.”

Using the mindfulness skill of intentional imagination, you will be working with these parts of the brain. It doesn’t actually matter if you know where these parts are (even the scientists are still speculating about it), but if you want a potentially more accurate image of the DMN you can get one here. Basically, there is a spot at the very front of your brain, one directly opposite, at the back of the brain, and two smaller spots on either side of the rear location.

Close your eyes and allow yourself to see an image of your brain with your mind’s eye. Notice the texture of it—its shape and size. Feel the weight of it.

Now, get a sense of the parts of your brain associated with the Default Mode Network. See these four spots being lit up with activity. What color do you associate with being “lit up?”

Imagine bringing a friendliness to these areas; we are not trying to force them to do anything they are not used to. Instead, we are just imagining them dialing it down a bit. Imagine them taking on a softer color. What color do you see? As you bring a friendly attention to these areas, what changes do you notice? Is there anything that you want to speak into these regions? When finished, allow yourself to extend a sense of gratitude to these parts of the brain for working with you in this exercise. Remind them that you are doing your best. Let them know that you would appreciate kinder words when commenting on who you are or how you’re doing.

Narratives

We all have a story we tell ourselves, a running dialogue that we filter our experiences through. We can be the coolest kid on the block and yet, our mind can create a storyline about us being a loser and that can taint our reality, becoming the “truth” in our narrative.

Fortunately, we can reconstruct the stories we tell ourselves. But first, we have to bring awareness to our inner dialogue. It is fascinating how something that can have such a profound impact on our daily lives, this thing we actually initiate with our own brain, can get by us, mostly undetected. Much of the time we don’t even realize that we are undermining our own actions, selling ourselves short with the narratives we construct about who we are.

This story changes over time, but often there is a general theme that is formulated at a young age, a view that is born from our sense of self. It has elements of self-worth and is continually assailed by our fickle self-esteem (which shifts day to day, hour by hour, depending upon such important matters as: if we are having a good hair day or not). Together these inform who we are. Unfortunately, these informants are often not very kind. And in some cases, they are flat-out mean.

You might already know what the main theme of your inner dialogue is. If not, take some time this week to pay attention to moments when you are feeling frustrated, down, negative, or exhausted. Then, back up a few steps. Ask yourself what you were just thinking. It may have been subtle, but there is usually a running dialogue that has become so familiar that we have learned to tune it out. Though, on some level, we know it’s there because it has such a direct impact on our mood and behaviors.

Pick out a specific phrase or word from the narrative. Consider the impact it has on your life. Allow your mind to make any connections it needs to. Where did this thought originate? Who told you this was who you were? What does it feel like to actually notice what those words are saying to you? Without judging it, allow your mind to focus on the words, the sound of these words, and their effects.

Try to become even more familiar with these parts of your inner experience. Get creative and imagine the color, shape, texture, or smell of these words. Explore their power, a power gained because they have not had a spotlight shown on them, have been able to grow wildly out of control in some dark corner of the mind. When seen in the light, they look kind of wimpy and we wonder why we allowed them to dominate our story.

End by saying the words, “What if this isn’t me.” Allow yourself to feel your reaction to that phrase. If it feels right, take a few deep breaths holding the thought, “This isn’t me.”

Mantra

We are going to try to record over the old tape, the narrative that no longer serves us. Consider a more uplifting phrase you can speak to yourself. It can be anything. This will be your mantra—a phrase or word you will say inwardly with intention. At first, this may seem a bit forced, especially if it counters that running dialogue that you may have been led to believe is the truth about who you are.

If nothing is coming to you, try just saying one word like “Love” or “Joy.” For some people, “Go slowly” is a good one.

Mantras can be centering. They can help ground us in truth. They can cut through the inner chatter and allow us a place to focus our attention. As we practice saying our mantra we are recording a new tape, forming new neural connections that are based on healthy inner-dialogue.

Your mantra should be strengthening, encouraging, and comforting. Some believe that it is helpful to pick a mantra that has seven syllables. By doing so, it becomes a breath prayer, matching the rhythm of the breath. For example, “I have all I need right now.”

Simply sit with your mantra during your practice today. Allow the words to wash over you, become you. Breathe them in and fill yourself up with them. Then carry them with you throughout the day. When you have a moment, pause and repeat your mantra. See if you can make it a habit. Pick multiple triggers: after pouring a cup of coffee, while washing dishes, while waiting for the light to turn green. Each of these can remind you to pause and focus on your mantra. Build it into your day.

Working with Body/Somatic Experiences

Our bodies are incredible, the way that they function with such precision. The way they can bounce back, even after we put them through so much abuse. Why is it that we so often take them for granted? Why do we choose to live outside them much of the time, spending most of our lives shacked up with our brains?

For many people it is difficult to bring awareness to their somatic experiences. Bodies can be painful reminders of sickness, disease, and trauma. It is not uncommon after such difficult experiences to learn ways to become numb to the body, which, at least initially, is a skill that can create a sense of safety.

To some extent, we all have painful experiences that have affected how we feel in our own skin. There is a growing belief that painful memories get stored in our bodies, our very cells. To bring awareness to our bodies then, can open up aspects of our past that we would rather forget. Though the more we learn about healing through bodywork, the more we realize that to move toward and through these stuck points is a way to transform them.

Check in with yourself. If anything about this brief introduction caused you to feel hesitant about doing mindfulness work with somatic experiences, listen to that. It may be better to practice these with someone you trust like a friend or counselor—someone that can hold space for you and help you integrate the experience. If the physical/emotional experience becomes too intense or overwhelming, using Peter Levine’s pendulation technique can also be helpful.

For the following somatic exercises we will start by sinking in: Begin by lying down and closing your eyes. If you have an eye mask/sleep mask, this can help you relax deeper into the inner experience. If it is not practical for you to lie down, get as comfortable as you can in a seated position. Use a blanket if this allows you to feel more comforted and/or relaxed. Take a minute to bring your mind into a more focused state by going through the three steps from the Little Details exercise:

1. Notice the contact between you and the surface below you

2. Pay attention to the sensation of a point where your clothes make contact with your skin

3. Follow your breath and the rise/fall of your belly for at least three breaths

Proprioception

This is a fun exercise and something you will likely be surprised at how naturally you are able to do it. This ability is called proprioception and will be used as we work through the following somatic exercises.

Close your eyes, and if possible, lie down on the floor or a couch. Now let your mind locate your big toe. Direct your mind as it moves through space to locate this part of your body. We are more aware of parts of ourselves then we realize. Now, find your pinky toe. Move further inward, it can be a bit trickier to find your middle toe. Move up a bit further. Can you locate both shins simultaneously?

Continue to experience your somatic landscape by connecting your mind to various body parts. See if you can feel the whole length of yourself against the surface of the floor or couch. By doing this we reconnect with our bodies and feel more grounded. Notice the sensation of being grounded—feeling solid, centered, secure, and supported. If you are able to get a sense of this, hang out here for a bit longer. This is a resource, something you can carry with you into the rest of your day.

Ship

This is an exercise I learned in a Medicinal Mindfulness Course. Since one aspect of our body is being a transportation device, this exercise adds intentional imagination to the somatic experience, to explore this in a creative way.

First, sink in. Then, without putting too much thought into it, imagine your body as some type of ship. What is the first image that comes up for you? See it in your mind’s eye. Notice what materials your ship is made of. Imagine the feel of it, the texture of its surface. What condition is it in? Make a note of any detail that may need some repair.

Move around your ship with a curiousness. Be as creative as you like. Did you miss something in the initial imagining? Add anything to the design that you think may benefit your ship.

Now shift your focus to inside the ship. How is this thing controlled? Notice all the wheels, buttons, levers, or other gadgets that are required to operate the ship. Are there any controls missing? Anything that surprises you? What are the sounds it makes when it is up and running?

Now take it for a spin. Take as long as you like to explore traveling in your ship. Take time to look out at your surroundings. Check in with your body. What sensations are you noticing? Don’t forget to stay connected to your breath as you explore.

Center of Me

Where is your center? This may seem like a strange question, one we don’t often get asked. This is unfortunate, for when we locate it, it can be a source of comfort, grounding, and power.

After sinking in, take a minute to get curious about where your center is. If you don’t know where to begin, ask yourself. Your inner guide already knows. Trust the process and go with whatever comes up after asking the question. If your mind gets in the way or tries to tell you that you’ve got it all wrong, ignore it, and shift back to focusing on the body. Notice what the experience is showing you.

Once you locate your center, hang out there for a bit. Again, let your creativity run wild. Exploring any and all aspects in a creative way can help you become more familiar as you lean into your center. What is your center made of? What is its texture? Does it have a taste? Smell? Sound? Color?

When you feel like you have a sense of what’s going on at your center, stay with it a bit longer. Use your breath to explore further, using it to guide you even deeper into your center.

This is a safe place. A place that you can connect with when feeling unbalanced. When you feel small and unsure of your place in the world or overconfident and expanded, you can hunker down here for a bit and regroup. For now, anchor to the experience of noticing what it feels like to come from a centered, balanced part of yourself. See if you can carry this out into the rest of your day.

Body Awareness

This is a simplified version of an exercise that Reggie Ray teaches through Dharma Oceans. Go here if you would like to download his free, guided Ten Point Practice as well as a few others practices and talks by Reggie. Check out all that Dharma Oceans has to offer, it is an amazing resource for deepening your somatic practice.

Take a minute to sink in. If you are lying down, bring your feet back toward your bottom so that your knees and legs create a triangle. Spread your feet apart to a point where you feel grounded and comfortable. Place your hands on your stomach, one atop the other. You will stay with each of the following points for at least seven cycles of breath.

Start by bringing awareness to both of your feet. As you breathe in, bring the whole of your focus to your feet. As you breathe out, relax your feet as completely as possible. If your mind wanders, bring it back so that you are conscious of your feet again. If your feet feel as relaxed as they can be, relax them even further. Allow the area between your knees and feet to relax, breathing out any tension through your feet.

Next, move up to your bottom. As you breathe in, all awareness is on both sides of your bottom making contact with the surface below you. As you breathe out, relax any place that you might be holding tension in your thighs and down through your pelvic region.

Now, bring your attention to the center of your back. Breathe into this area. As you breathe in, all focus is here. As you breathe out, feel yourself letting go, relaxing any part of this area that needs release. With each outbreath, release further.

Continue to move up your body, bringing attention to both of your shoulders. Again, breathe in, focusing on your shoulders. If you are lying down, pay attention to the points of contact with the ground. Breathe out, releasing further and further. Don’t forget to move any tension from your upper arms as well—move it out through your shoulders.

Next, go through the same process with both elbows. Breathing in, completely aware and present to these parts of your body. Breathing out and releasing. Pay attention to any energy being held in your hands and forearms. Release through your elbows as you breathe out.

Finally, notice the weight of your head and the point at which it makes contact with the ground (if you are lying down). Breathe in with a focused awareness, breathe out releasing, and releasing further.

End by feeling all points of contact at once. Feel yourself grounded and deeply relaxed, having released so much accumulated tension. Take a deep breath and wiggle your toes and fingers. When ready, open your eyes.

Stuck Point Release

We hold a good deal of emotional tension in our bodies. Mindfully working with somatic experiences can help us find these stuck points and begin to open them up, releasing the tension.

After sinking in, ask yourself where emotional tension is stuck within your body. Sometimes it can help to move your hand over your body in a scanning fashion. Trusting the process, believing that your inner guide knows what to do, bring a gentleness and curiousness to the experience. If your mind wants to run the show, kindly ask it to sit this one out.

When you locate an area that holds the energy of stuck emotions—this may be a frantic energy, a tight spot, a dull ache, or other agitation—start by breathing into that area. Envision your breath bringing a calming effect to the stuck point, allowing it to soften.

Use your imagination to explore the area. Notice any textures, colors, tastes, smells, etc. Does it change when you put your awareness there? What are the edges like? What happens when you guide your breath deeper into this space?

If the stuck point seems unchanging or resistant to you working with it, ask it what it needs. Then track whatever comes up following the question. The answer might not come in thought form, but instead through a somatic experience, feeling, or image. Trust the process and go with it.

When you feel ready, cultivate a sense of gratitude toward yourself, for showing up and doing the work. Allow yourself to experience gratitude toward the emotion. Even painful emotions are gifts that hold clues about what we value in life. Remember, you can always come back and do more work here. Pace yourself and don’t try to get it all done at once.

Pleasure/Pain

During a Vipassana retreat in Thailand, one of the most shocking discoveries I had was that there is a very thin veil between pleasure and pain. Sitting in meditation poses for long periods, I would experience a deep, bone-grinding pain, at times. We were encouraged to stay with the discomfort, name it, and observe its nature. Often, what I found was that noticing the pain without judgment transformed the experience. What I thought was pain, all the sudden became one of the most pleasurable sensations I could imagine.

Neuroscientists are finding out that our brains are like a medicine cabinet. We already have almost all the drugs in the world stored inside them. Someday we may be able to prompt the release of these chemicals at the correct dosage to manage our illnesses. To read an interesting article on this topic, go here.

For this exercise, start by sinking in. Then cause yourself a bit of pain—nothing masochistic, just enough to get your endorphins to notice that there’s something going on. Try pinching some skin, or pushing a fingernail against the sensitive skin near the nail of one of your other fingers.

Now, you are going to breathe and stay focused on the sensations experienced at the source of the pain. If your brain wants to barge in and give some commentary on the process, cut through the distraction, acknowledging it by saying, “thinking.” As you return to the sensation, inwardly say, “feeling.” This has the effect of labeling what is going on without judging it as either positive or negative. You are just observing. Often it is the judgment that causes us to have an aversion to an experience and the mental discomfort intensifies the physical pain.

Stay with this experience until you notice any changes in the sensation. Continue to breathe and allow the experience to unfold.

Now, switch gears. Find a pleasurable sensation. This can be anything. If you are not sure what to do, try tickling the underside of your arm or soaking your feet in warm water. We are going to do the same thing as with pain: pay attention to the sensation, how the body responds. You are simply observing the experience. Breathing and allowing. Noticing the changes. Labeling thoughts, “thinking,” and bringing your focus back to the sensation, labeling it, “feeling.”

Often, we become greedy with pleasure. We want more and more. Then, we feel pain when it’s over. Pleasure then, has an element of pain, if we don’t use mindfulness in the process.

Switch back and forth between the two sensations of pleasure and pain. See what you discover.

[* Working with Emotional States*]

Emotions play a major role in our lives. They help us understand our values. They allow us to communicate with others. Without them, we couldn’t make choices. Like thoughts, they often seem to have a life of their own. Sometimes they seem to spring out of nowhere and the impact they have can change the course of our day.

When we bring mindfulness to the equation, we begin to see that there is much more going on. Emotions don’t just come out of nowhere, they build like a bank of clouds. Even if some emotions seem to gather intensity at lightning-quick speeds, there is always a preceding event. What would it be like to notice an emotion before it snatches the reigns from us? To become emotionally aware allows us greater control over our impulses. We can pause and consider our response before acting.

Emotions can be a guiding force, rather than a dominating one. But first, we have to learn to recognize the earliest sign that they have shown up. Often this sign originates within the body. This is why we practiced somatic work first. Now that you are more familiar with navigating somatic experiences, you will be able to experience your emotions with greater depth.

It is tricky enough trying to figure out what we are feeling, let alone to have to come up with some fancy name for it. To make it a bit easier, as we work with emotional states, we are going to stick with the seven core emotions: anger, contempt, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, and surprise.

Stories

Stories about the human spirit, people overcoming adversity and finding meaning in the midst of an existential crisis, always get me. During these types of movies, I am often a puddle of tears when my wife looks over and asks, “What’s going on?” It is usually not sadness but triumph that strikes something inside me, causing the tears to roll.

What type of stories trigger your emotions? If you already know, spend some time reading/watching/listening to the story and allow the emotion to overtake you.

If you need some help on this one, here are a few that get me every time:

Nouela’s “Sound of Silence” on YouTube

This short film on YouTube, “The Wednesdays” brings me lots of joy

A State Farm Ad, of all things

People’s reactions to this flashmob

Allow your emotional response to be as big as it needs to be. I often catch myself fighting it, living out the lie that emotions should be a private affair. If you can, don’t resist. Allow the tears to flow, if that is what the emotion needs to express itself. You are getting the added benefit of releasing lots of stress hormones through those tears.

If it’s joy, laugh until your sides ache. If fear, feel your body tighten or even quiver. Disgust? Really turn up your nose and scrunch your face, eeewwww. Whatever it is, let the emotion be expressed however it needs to be, and really feel it. Feel it in your body. Your bones. Notice where those emotions come from, what they rattle. Notice if anything feels like it is being loosened or released. If you can locate the emotion in your body, breathe into that area, and pay attention to any changes that take place. If this whole process is challenging for you, notice the thoughts associated with the difficulty.

What Is In?

We often don’t make it a practice to pause throughout the day and check in with our emotional state. What would we find if we did? Likely, a whole sea of emotions. We cycle through at least a handful of the seven core emotions every day.

Take a minute to get curious about your inner world. What is happening there? You don’t have to know why. Just tune in and, without judgment, notice. Ask yourself, “What is in?” Then, go on a search. What is the first emotional word that comes to mind? Whatever emotion it is, how do you know that this is what you are feeling?

What are the signs? Where does it show up in your body? Are there thoughts that give you a clue? Sensations? Is there tension somewhere? What is your face expressing? Does your stomach feel unsettled, or your mind, cloudy?

Once you feel like you have a sense of what emotional state you are feeling, even if it is subtle, dive deeper. Breathe into it. Notice if it has a temperature. Does it have a texture? What is it made of? Again, use your creative mind to explore. Get as far out there as you want. Does it have a name? Smell? Taste? What is it saying to you? What do you want to say to it?

When you are finished, end by cultivating a sense of gratitude toward the emotion, even if it is a painful one. All emotions are teachers helping us understand our world and how we relate to it.

Welcome

This exercise is adapted from Mary Mrozowski’s contemplative prayer technique called the Welcoming Prayer. The idea is to move toward difficult emotions rather than away from them as we tend to do. This seems counterintuitive at first. With painful emotions, we often try to fight them, ignore them, or numb them with substances. When instead, we respond by turning toward the emotion, we find that they often dissipate much more quickly.

With this practice we are going to not only feel the emotion, experiencing its many qualities, but we are also going to bring a friendliness to the interaction by welcoming it.

A note of caution: If you are new to this practice and don’t have a quick way to ground yourself, I would warn against choosing an emotion that has an element of anxiety in it. Because anxiety is such a somatic experience already, to move toward it, without having the tools to ground yourself, can cause the sensations to intensify rather than dissipate. And triggering a panic attack is just the opposite of what we are attempting to do in this exercise.

First, start by bringing up a difficult emotion. If you don’t have any that are easily accessible, take a minute to use intentional imagination and recall a recent challenging experience with a co-worker, partner, child, fellow driver (that usually seems to trigger some memories of frustration), or yourself. With your mind’s eye, see as many details of the interaction as you can. Remember to use all your senses.

Once you have re-engaged with the emotion, lean into it. Explore it as we did in the “What Is In?” exercise.

Then, when you feel like you have a good sense of it, inwardly say, “Welcome” or “Welcome, friend” or some version of that. If it helps to name the emotion, add that. But, we are not just saying it. We are meaning it—actually getting a sense for what it is like to not only be okay with having it around, but wanting it around, wanting to learn from it. Feel the gratitude. Only welcome as much as feels realistic. Sometimes emotions can be so painful we can only manage a little at a time.

Finally, you are going to release it. Imagine letting it go. If it helps, picture yourself putting it somewhere where it no longer has an impact on you. Know that you can return to it (or more likely, that it will come around again soon enough) and work with it at another time.

Heart Space

Take a minute to notice the rhythm of your heart. This exercise alone can open a whole world of wonder. We have so many connections to heart. Not only does it keep us alive, pumping blood to all our vital organs, it keeps us connected energetically (check out the research at heartmath.org for more on this) and through the power we have given it as a symbol of love.

Allow yourself to imagine your heart. You can picture it as something you would find in an anatomy book or any of the various symbols that come to mind when you think of a heart. Maybe you sense it as an energy radiating out from the center of your body. Whatever feels right for you, go with that. Now, imagine your whole body, your breath, and your entire energetic being, syncing with the rhythm of your heart. All is in balance.

Imagine that you are generating pure love through this balance. What color is it? What does it feel like to be in contact with pure love? Are there somatic experiences associated with it? Follow this experience for a moment, being curious about what comes up for you.

[_Who in your life needs this love? Take a moment to consider this. Let an image form in your mind. Who or what do you see? _]

You? A dear friend or relative? An enemy? The earth?

Imagine that you can channel this love out toward this person or object. Feel the connection that is sustained between the two of you—an unbreakable cord. What colors do you see? What is happening in your heart, the source of this healing emotion? Continue to just feel what is like to share this gift of love. Notice how it makes you feel. Sense how it makes the receiver feel.

Stay with this experience as long as you like. When you get a sense that you are finished (for now), acknowledge the connection made. Take a moment to consider if this exercise has a next step. Is there something you can do to demonstrate this love?

Gratitude

I once met a hospice worker who told me that he noticed two distinct ways people lived as they drew near to death. He said that people tend to either be full of gratitude or full of bitterness as they face their final days on earth.

We aren’t naturally predisposed towards gratitude. Part of our survival nature keeps us questioning others’ intentions and this can impede our sense of gratitude. Fortunately, with the help of a mindfulness practice, gratitude can be cultivated.

Optional: This practice can be enhanced by adding the “half-smile,” which can automatically cause your brain to kick out some happy chemicals, mixing joy with the gratitude you already feel. To do this, upturn the corners of your mouth into a partial smile. This is not a big, cheesy grin. It’s so slight that if anyone saw you they would hardly detect it, though you will feel your facial features brighten a bit. It’s amazing how well this simple tool works.

How do you know when you feel gratitude? What are the thoughts, sensations, feelings, or images that you associate with gratitude?

Start with three things that you are grateful for. We will work with them one at a time. Take a deep breath and bring up an image in your mind of the first thing you are grateful for. As you see it in your mind’s eye, allow yourself to breathe it in, experiencing it fully by filling your heart up with it. As you breathe out, simply say, “Thank you.”

Once you get a sense of this connection through gratitude, move on to the next two. If your whole time is spent with just one thing, this is okay too.

Transitions

As you know, change is a constant in life. Just when you get comfortable, life goes and rearranges the furniture. Not cool, life. And yet, if we take another point of view, we see that change offers us an opportunity to shift, to avoid complacency, to grow. When we take this stance, we find ourselves in transition. An inner transformation takes place when we go through the process of acknowledging that something has ended, get tossed around a bit in the confusion of the in-between, and, at some point, make it to the other side and start anew. For more on this process, William Bridges’ book Transitions is a great resource.

There are so many emotions involved in transitions. Often all seven of the core emotions show up as we make our way from one shore to the other.

Take a moment to think about your life. Where are you currently experiencing change: with money, health, relationships, spirituality, location, employment, loss? Pick one that seems most significant and consider at what point in the transition you are in.

Are you struggling with letting go? Are you confused by the chaos of trying to figure out what’s next? Or are you experiencing a new beginning?

Allow yourself to consider how you feel about where you are. Too often when we experience change, we just push on through, make lists of what needs to get done, and stay in our heads—because it feels safer there, and we have to keep moving, getting things done. During this exercise, you don’t have to do any of that. Your only job is to experience the process of transition.

Sink in and notice what feelings you may have about the current phase of transition you are in. Are you pleasantly surprised at how well you are adjusting to a new job? Sad about the fact that you are no longer a spring chicken? Full of joy about an evolving relationship? Do you have contempt toward your partner for leaving? Fearful about not knowing if things will ever seem normal again? Disgusted with yourself for eating the whole pint of ice cream? Angry at how cruel life can seem?

These are just a few questions to get you thinking about how feelings show up during these transitional phases. Now, go ahead and feel. Sink into it. Make sure to bring your body and breath along for the experience.

Working with Transpersonal States

Have you ever experienced a moment in which you felt connected to something bigger than yourself? Noticed that everything seemed perfectly aligned? Experienced a profound unity with others, with nature, with the cosmos, or with the Divine? Noticed that there was no division between where your being ended and the world around you started? Found yourself realizing and being okay with the paradoxical nature of life, the non-duality embedded in existence? Experienced unexpected bliss or timelessness? Have you received a message from your unconscious—perhaps through psychotherapy, a dream, artwork, or while experiencing psychedelics?

We often think that these states are achieved only through big experiences like traveling to the Amazon to drink ayahuasca with a shaman, or staying up all night praying for a sign from God, or meditating and fasting for long stretches.

Yet, sometimes these experiences catch us by surprise. I will never forget finding myself in such a state while putting my nephew down to sleep in his crib. The interaction with this precious, little person was magical. I felt outside myself and completely present to myself at the same time. Everything in the world seemed beautifully balanced.

We have all experienced some form of a transpersonal state: peak experiences, mystical experiences, flow states, and many religious experiences would fit this category. This is deep work: quieting the mind, removing the ego from center stage. With mindfulness, we can cultivate a space for these states. We can also use it as a tool to navigate them. When we take the time to integrate these experiences into our lives, we are transformed.

You may find that these states bring up unexpected material that can be difficult to process. It can be helpful to go slow. Consider having a friend or psychotherapist to process with, someone to help you integrate the experience. If you find the experience strikes you in a profound way or in a way that is challenging to wrap your mind around, this is okay. Trust the process and allow it to continue to work on you. Often when we engage with unconscious processes, the unconscious becomes like that little dog that you threw the ball to once, and now it won’t leave you alone. This is a good thing. The more we pay attention, the deeper the process of healing goes.

I would encourage you to create space for integration following any impactful experience that comes up for you during these practices. The mandala exercise is a great tool for integration, as is journaling, being in nature, creating art, making music, and using free-association or active imagination techniques.

For the following transpersonal exercises consider allowing yourself at least twenty minutes for the practice. Set a timer with a gentle bell, forget about the time, and allow yourself to be immersed in the experience.

[_ I encourage you to start by sinking in: Begin by lying down and closing your eyes. If you have an eye mask/sleep mask, this can help you relax deeper into the inner experience. If it is not practical for you to lie down, get as comfortable as you can in a seated position. Use a blanket if this allows you to feel more comforted and/or relaxed. Take a minute to bring your mind into a more focused state by going through the three steps from the Little Details exercise._]

1. Notice the contact between you and the surface below you

2. Pay attention to the sensation of a point where your clothes make contact with your skin

3. Follow your breath and the rise/fall of your belly for at least three breaths

Tracking with Awareness

Now that you have practiced working with cognitions, images, sensations, and emotions, we will be combining all these in this exercise.

As you get started, think of an intention (a prayer of sorts) for your practice today. It can be anything. Something you would like to bring into your practice to work with. Maybe you want to soften your heart toward someone. Or maybe you would like insight into a particular problem you are working on. It could be a simple ask like, “more peace in my life.” You don’t have to put much thought into it. Allow it to be a natural process. Often your inner guide knows what you need anyhow, so you may find that your intention fades into the background as underlying concerns arise.

Optional: This exercise can also be used with Shadow Work. We all have a shadow side—that aspect of self that we hide from the world. Impulses that scare us. Part of ourselves that we are ashamed of. We often distract ourselves from aspects of our shadow by projecting it onto others. The thing we dislike about who we are, manifesting as disdain and contempt toward someone else. When we try to ignore this part of who we are, it tends to surface in destructive patterns like addictions and toxic ways of relating to others.

If you are unfamiliar with shadow work, start with an open question that you want to explore in relation to the nature of your shadow. Something like, “What about myself am I scared to show the world?” If you already have a pretty good idea about what is in your shadow, a good question to begin with is, “Why do I hold onto this?” or maybe, “Why do I resist this?”

After sinking in, ask the question and track the experiences as described below. The idea is not to overcome our shadow but to integrate it into our true nature. We do this by moving toward rather than away from it.

After sinking in, connect your breathing with your intention. As you breathe in and out, hold your intention in your mind. You may notice that your intention triggers a stream of thoughts. If so, direct your attention there.

Thoughts may then be associated with images. As you breathe and allow the unfolding process, if images arise, you will stay with the images, noticing the details. If there is a particular detail that strikes you, go with that. Breathe into it. What else is there? What isn’t there? Keep exploring.

Notice what changes. Are there energetic or physical sensations that you feel? If so, let your breath guide you deeper into that experience. Does a particular emotion come over you? Notice the quality of the emotion. Where is it located in your body?

If you notice that you have lost track of the experience and are planning your next meal, or laying out your to-do list in your head, simply notice this, label it “thinking,” and return to the point you last remember tracking.

You will find that each session has a quality of its own. Sometimes you may be flooded with images from the start and will be working mostly with these visuals and associated feelings. At other times, somatic experiences may be more prevalent. As you begin to trust the process and follow your inner guide, you will notice that you can use your breath to go deeper into the experience. Often the unconscious is showing you things that no longer serve you. As you move toward and explore them, breath can act as a clearing tool, bringing healing to these parts of yourself that you can let go.

Earth Embrace

Many of us have forgotten our connection to the earth. Though, even when our brains remain distracted to the fact, our bodies remember. There is a part of us that yearns for this substance that makes up our bones. This practice can bring us back to that connection.

This is another technique inspired by Reggie Ray. You can find a guided meditation for a similar practice on his website.

Find a place where you have direct contact with the ground. Lie down and make any adjustments so that you are as comfortable as possible. After sinking in, bring your attention to the full length of your body against the earth. Scan your body, noticing the various points of contact. Feel the weight of your body pressing down. The earth supporting you from below.

Now, just as you have used your breath to move deeper into your somatic experiences, use the same technique to breathe down into the earth. With each inbreath, bring your full attention to your body and the sensation of it touching the earth. With each outbreath, allow your attention to sink further into the earth, imagining a merging taking place. Feel the sensations of your body both on the earth (with the inbreath) and in the earth (with the outbreath). Feel the embrace of the earth as deeply as possible. How do you imagine this connection? Notice any sensations or emotions that arise.

When you have merged to a point that feels complete, begin to feel back into just your body. Breathe and notice what it feels like to be on top of the ground. Wiggle your toes and fingers. Open your eyes when you feel grounded and ready.

Birth/Death

The life cycle is a part of our journey. Yet, for the most part, we let it run its course without giving it much thought—unless that thought is related to the existential dread of finality, which we tend to dwell on in unhealthy ways. We can use mindfulness to work with this cycle. This exercise can have a profound impact.

First, start with a picture of yourself as a baby, using the earliest picture that you have.

After sinking in, allow yourself “now” to connect with yourself “then”. Use your breath to just be with the image. Breathing and observing is all you are doing. Notice sensations and feelings that arise, but stay with the image. Try to avoid getting caught up in the brain wanting to run the show. Yes, you were a cute baby, but commentary on such things is not all that helpful in this exercise. Stay with the experience as long as you like.

Next, you are going to find a picture of a cadaver. I realize this can bring up all kinds of responses. Just seeing the word “cadaver” can trigger a somatic reaction. If this is what came up for you, allow yourself a minute to sit and notice what this might be about.

[_Okay, if you’re still with me, grab an old anatomy book or do an online image search for “cadaver.” You might try being specific in your search and include words like “medical” or “anatomy” or you will come up with pictures of zombies to meditate on. Another option would be to look up Alex Grey’s Dying painting or Carol Goldmark’s Studies from Gross Anatomy drawings. _]

You will be doing the same thing as with the birth/baby image. Breathing, noticing, allowing. Facing whatever comes up with openness. What sensations do you get? If you feel aversion, how do you know this is aversion? Where does it show up in your body?

If you want to go further with this experience, place the images side by side and work with both by alternating between them. Sensing and feeling. Observing thoughts, sensations, feelings, and images that arise. Breathing and allowing whatever comes up to be a part of the experience. Returning to the images.

You can end by cultivating a sense of gratitude in your heart for both of these sacred aspects of our lives.

Darkness

Darkness gets a bad rap. Because it has been associated with evil and scary things that hide out in it, we fear it. Incorporating a mindfulness practice can help us see things as they really are. It helps us see through the judgment and labels we often filter our reality through. What we find when we spend time with darkness is that it is more than just the absence of light. It has its own unique qualities. There are layers of darkness that we can feel into. Let this exercise bring you into a new relationship with darkness, as you get curious about what it is, beyond the meaning we give it.

This practice works best if you can find a place that is completely void of light, like a closet with a towel placed at the bottom of the door. Obviously, make sure the space has good ventilation, you don’t want to suffocate while befriending the dark.

You will keep your eyes open for this exercise, which is the reason for total darkness. If there is even a trace of light, our eyes will focus on it, which can trigger a whole series of thoughts that we are trying to quiet down. You can use an eye mask in a darkened room, though this can be distracting, especially with long lashes that brush up against the back of the mask each time you blink. But, you can make that work, especially if you are claustrophobic and are not about to crawl into a closet.

Start by sinking in. With the darkness surrounding you and your eyes open, allow yourself to breathe and notice what happens when you open up to the experience. What qualities of darkness present themselves? Notice your emotional response. How does your body respond? Allow yourself to be aware of any energetic sensations that come up.

Are your eyes still open? What do you see? How does your mind navigate the darkness? What thoughts arrive? Continue to work with this space, sinking deeper and deeper into it. Trust that you will know when to let the light back in. When you do, take a moment to sit quietly and transition.

Symbols

If we are open to working with the unconscious, we find that it doesn’t waste our time. It will take us on a wild ride, revealing insights into its nature and our psyche along the way.

The language that the unconscious uses to share these insights is often expressed through symbols. For example, when we dream about a specific person, it is rare that the dream is actually about that person, but rather about some aspect that the person represents in our psyche.

Symbols have the ability to transport us. Because a particular culture has given a symbol meaning, the object takes on a whole new power. Collectively, we understand the meaning and stories behind many of the world’s symbols. Consider a peace symbol, swastika, or cross—each points to something much deeper; seeing them becomes an experience.

Unfortunately, many cultures have lost a sense of the sacred, choosing instead to glorify the concrete and observable, aspects of life that can be measured and tested. As a result, many of our symbols have lost their deeper significance. Though they may still be used as jewelry, pretty decorations, tattoos, and nice wall hangings, they rarely transport us.

For this exercise, we are going to use mindfulness as a way to experience the depths that symbols allow us to explore. To be transported into the story, to experience the meaning behind the symbol.

What is a symbol that you are drawn to? This can be anything that we have collectively given meaning to. Many animals have become symbols. Certain pieces of art have symbolic meaning. Think about different groups that have had an impact on your life. What symbol do they use to represent their work? Whatever symbol you find yourself drawn to, find an object or image of it to work with during this exercise.

How does the symbol that you’ve chosen impact you when you see it? What thoughts, feelings, other images, or sensations do you experience as you sit with this image? As you hold the image, allow yourself to be drawn into the experience, the story. When you feel that you have connected with it, close your eyes and see it in your mind’s eye. Now, allow yourself to Track with Awareness, following any experience that arises as it relates to this symbol.

If you find your mind running off to unrelated material, take a deep breath, and label the thought, “thinking.” Then, take a peek at the symbol again. Reconnect with the experience. When you are finished take the image or, if practical, the object with you today. Continue to work with it when you get a free moment.

Being with Beings

The unconscious world is full of interesting characters. Try this: close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and let your mind imagine some other being/creature. Some people are more visual in their imagination and can draw up a detailed image fairly quickly. Others may not be as visual, but can get a sense of it. As strange as this may seem, you can actually have a conversation with these characters.

What would be the purpose of this? It is a great way to dialogue with your unconscious. Remember that the unconscious speaks through symbols. Think about some of the odd creatures that it creates in your dreams. If we give our unconscious an imagined being to step into, it is more likely to come out and play.

Some might say this is craziness and that we are talking to an imaginary friend, which is something we are supposed to have grown out of. Yet, if we come to the experience with openness, we are able to engage energetically with this imagined being, and something about this interaction can transform us. This is often what happens when we allow the unconscious to reveal its nature and our psyches to us. We are confronted, and if we do the work of integrating what we learn, we change.

This exercise is a form of active imagination, which itself is a way to access the unconscious. It is also like psychotherapist Fritz Perls’ empty chair technique, which taps into some of the same processes. For a deeper understanding of this exercise and the processes at work, check out Inner Work by Robert Johnson. This exercise is adapted from the active imagination activity in the book.

Optional: Keep a notebook or piece of paper and a pen near you for this exercise and write down parts of the conversation that strike you. It can help to write down what is said as you go, or at least journal about what you remember when you are finished. This has the same effect as dream journaling: as you write it down, it keeps the process going, and often elements of the experience continue to unfold through future work with the unconscious.

After sinking in, think of the word “being” or “creature.” Maybe a word is the first thing that comes up in response. If so, work with that. Let the word be associated with an image in your mind. Allow your mind to create as many strange details as it needs to. See the image of this being/creature in your mind’s eye.

Does it have anything to say? Maybe it is shy, and you need to start the conversation. Inwardly, allow yourself to say whatever comes to your mind. Wait for a response. Remember, no judgment. Allow the conversation to unfold at its own pace. Notice your breath. Pay attention to your somatic responses. Trust the process and end the conversation in any way that feels appropriate.

Working with Relationships/Returning

When we begin to observe our thoughts and emotions, we find that there is a space between them and our actions. We notice that we have the freedom to pause and choose how we will respond. The old, reactive patterns (that often only served to protect our egos) are behaviors that we can let go. Though we may still use them in certain situations, we choose to initiate the response rather than unconsciously reacting based on our thoughts and emotions. Doing this can transform relationships as we model healthier ways of interacting.

Becoming aware of our bodies can also be beneficial in how we engage with our world. Often, as we release built up tension and stored emotional pain, we begin to open physically. Our posture changes. Like a flower unfolding in spring, we draw others to us with our openness and vibrancy.

With transpersonal work we cultivate a space for healing old wounds—wounds that have been stored deep in the tangles of our unconscious. As we experience these deeper aspects of self, clearing and integrating as we go, we begin to engage from a place of healing rather than brokenness.

These are the pathways we have explored in this mindfulness journey so far. Now we begin the process of coming home—often the most powerful aspect of the journey. As we share our experiences, others benefit from what we have learned along the way. This is one of the biggest reasons to practice mindfulness: it helps transform our world, bringing healing not only to our lives, but to the lives of those around us. This is often the result of us interacting in more intentional and healthy ways, as we slow down and notice how our actions impact our world.

Reflection

We will start with the relationship we have with ourselves. As we become more aware, we begin to notice how we see ourselves in relation to the world. We notice patterns. Unfortunately, one of these patterns is often being cruel to ourselves: comparing ourselves to others and being harsh critics of what we find. Self-hatred has become a way of being for many of us, even if we bury it in our shadow and pretend to the world that we are confident in our looks and abilities.

I invite you to go to the mirror. If you have a full-length, this can be even more powerful. If it’s practical, I encourage you to remove anything that is not part of you—jewelry, clothing, glasses, etc. Then, just take some time to be with your image. What is your initial reaction? Track your thoughts, emotions, sensations. What are the words that you would use to describe you? How do they sound when you say them aloud to yourself? What feelings arise in response?

Now, get even closer to the mirror. Put your nose right up to it. Look as deep as you can into your own eyes. What feelings arise? Are there sensations or thoughts that you notice? Hold your own gaze until you feel yourself soften a bit. This is you!

Finally, try to say the following phrase to yourself:

“I love you, (your name).”

Initial response? Where did you feel it in your body? What emotions are you experiencing?

Try saying it three more times.

If this whole phrase seems too farfetched and you just can’t buy it right now, try “I like you, (your name)” or “I’m learning to like/love you, (your name).” You can practice this throughout the week. Work your way up to using “love” if you need to. If you find that it is still difficult, go back to the Shadow Work exercise and start with, “What is blocking me from loving myself?”

Circle of Support

I don’t think it’s possible to have too much support. Often we don’t draw on our support system enough. We assume that others, like us, are too busy. We forget that there are many ways to gain strength from our support system. We can ask them to pray or send us uplifting thoughts. We can ask them to hold space for us. We can use “Intentional Imagination,” as in this exercise, to resource ourselves.

Recall the Heart Space exercise. We are going to come from the same energetic place in this practice.

Start by sinking in and staying with the rhythm of your breath. As you do this, begin to imagine a peaceful scene, whatever that looks like for you. As you construct this scene, you are going to bring in a circle of support which you will be at the center of. This is your circle, so get creative and put anything supportive in it: friends, family, animals, spirit guides, spiritual figures, allies, objects, whatever.

Now as you look around the circle, use the “Heart Space” exercise to cultivate that same experience in your heart. This time, instead of channeling it out to one person, direct it out toward everyone and everything in your circle of support. See the heart energy, its color flowing out and around the circle. What feelings come up? Can you get a sense of the connection? What does that feel like? Where do you feel it in your body?

Now, notice that the flow is being reversed. Staying connected, you realize that instead of the circle receiving energy from your heart space, the accumulation of all their heart energy, in the best possible way, is flowing back to you and your heart. Imagine it as a healing and supportive energy. What color is it? Is there any sound? Allow yourself to feel any sensations or emotions that come up.

As you fill yourself up with this supportive exchange, allow yourself to anchor it. Where, in your body, can this experience live? Imagine putting it there—a place you can return to, tap into when you need to feel the strength of your supportive circle.

End this exercise by returning to your heart and cultivating a sense of gratitude toward those in your circle.

Hug

Virginia Satir, a therapist who specialized in family systems, suggests that “We need four hugs a day for survival . . . eight hugs a day for maintenance . . . twelve hugs a day for growth.” It’s a good goal and can bring joy and connection to our relationships.

As we become mindful of aspects of our lives that we have engaged with absentmindedly in the past, these same experiences take on a new quality. For this exercise, hug someone, a pet, or yourself. Use all the mindfulness tools you have learned—the many ways to experience an experience—observing the layers that are often neglected. Feel into it. Be in the sensation of it. Breathe and allow the contact to be your only focus. Touch is a powerful thing, opening us to a vast and often healing somatic experience.

Coming and Going

This exercise is based on a practice that Stan Tatkin describes in his book, Wired for Love. In our busy lives, we often rush about from one task to the next. It can leave us exhausted, especially because we often don’t make time to pause and connect with those we love. We neglect doing one of the things that can actually keep us charged.

If you have a partner, there are lots of instances throughout the day when you come and go from each other’s presence: heading off to work, running errands, going for a jog. This practice allows us to connect with our partner each time we head out the door or return home. It only takes a moment, but if done mindfully, can help us transition from our various roles out in the world to our roles as lover/friend/partner. It is also an acknowledgment that we “see” the other and remain connected, despite the physical separation.

Note: If you don’t have a partner that you’re living with (or if your partner doesn’t want to participate), this can be a powerful practice to do with yourself as well. Stopping to be present to yourself between each role that you assume throughout the day can allow you to transition between them more fluidly.

As you practice this today, take a moment to pause and breathe together, looking into one another’s eyes. Try to do this between each transition that occurs as you come and go from each other’s presence. If doing this with yourself, take a few minutes to breathe and just be present to yourself. Or find a mirror and look into your own eyes to connect with yourself.

Optional: You can use the sense of touch to deepen the experience either by holding one another’s hands and/or ending the practice with a hug or kiss (or whatever creative endeavor you two can come up with).

Gazing

You’ve heard the saying, “Eyes are windows to the soul.” If you don’t believe that now, you may reconsider after this exercise.

Though this differs between cultures, many of us feel uncomfortable looking into another person’s eyes. It can feel too intimate. We feel exposed. My guess is that part of us knows that it is a powerful experience and shy away from the enormity of it.

This can be a very healing and transformative experience in relationships. I have also done this exercise with strangers from a culture different than my own. I found that it helped cut through the initial awkwardness of small talk. Following an experience like this, you seem to just dive right into the heart of the matter.

Whether you choose to do this with a friend, stranger, or partner, find a place where you can sit comfortably. There are two parts to the exercise, so you will either want to set a timer for one-two minutes or estimate the time and agree on a signal that means it is time to switch.

Start by finding a comfortable distance and then begin gazing directly into one another’s eyes. If this feels a bit dissociating at first, stay with your breath as a way to keep yourself grounded. For the first minute or two, you will be seeing the other: looking as deeply into them as you can.

For the second minute or two, you will be seen by the other: opening up to the experience of being looked into.

To conclude this shared experience, do whatever feels natural. After this type of connection, there is often a synchronicity that happens and you seem to just know what comes next.

Touch into Infinity

If you are unsure of what an infinity symbol looks like, picture the number eight, lying on its back, gazing up at the sky. This is the pattern that you will be using in this exercise. I’m guessing that this works because the infinity symbol is a pattern that flows continuously and allows you to fall into the rhythm of it. Also, like the therapeutic practice of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), this too crosses the central meridian and likely produces the same orienting response, stimulating communication between the right and left hemispheres of the brain.

For this practice, find a partner that doesn’t mind having their face touched. Alternately, you can do this on yourself as a mindfulness, stress reduction technique.

If you have a partner, get them comfortable, either sitting or lying down. Have them take a few deep breaths, releasing any tension with each outbreath. Explain that you will be tracing a pattern of infinity as you touch their face. Have them continue to breathe naturally as you trace the symbol:

Starting with the right temple move across the forehead to the left temple, down across the cheek bone, and up and over the tip of the nose, then down the other cheekbone to the chin, then back up to the left cheek bone, and again across the tip of the nose, across the right cheekbone, and back up to the right temple. Continue this pattern for two to five minutes.

If they feel like returning the gift, have them do it for you.

Spirit Animals

Many years ago I discovered my totem animals. Though there are many ways to go about this, I simply chose three animals that I was drawn to—one that lives on land, one in water, and another that can navigate the sky. I learned about their qualities and characteristics as well as about what they symbolized in Native American traditions by reading a book by Ted Andrews called Animal Speak.

This has had a lasting impression because now whenever I see one of these animals, either in real life or through media, I have a moment of connection with them, considering what they have to teach me in that moment. It causes me to pause, be mindful of the lesson as it relates to where I am in my own life, and acknowledge a relationship with other animals.

Take a look at Ted’s book and see which animals you find a connection to. There is also an online resource that can help you find your spirit/totem animal at spiritanimal.info.

When you make a connection with one of the many amazing animals that we share this life experience with, incorporate this into your mindfulness practice. Whenever you come across (and you will be surprised at the ways in which this occurs) your totem or spirit animal, pause, listen, and say, “Thanks.”

Notice your thoughts, feelings, sensations, and any other images that arise. Explore the evolving connection you have with this animal. What is it like to be in its presence? Allow the encounter to be an experience that continues to inspire and transform you. Was synchronicity at play here?

Spirit in Everything

I have no idea what you believe, but I have come to believe that Spirit, the Divine, The Great Mystery, is in everything. This means that each experience I have in this life, whether it’s washing a dish or interacting with another human being, is an opportunity to experience the sacred, to have a relationship with the Divine. We mostly ignore this, and as a result, miss out on experiencing the profound Mystery that surrounds, interpenetrates, and, I believe, sustains us. What would life be like if we acknowledged the beauty of this relationship? At least for me, washing dishes wouldn’t be such a drag.

If we practice being more mindful in each experience, we get the opportunity to respond to the sacred, to experience the beauty of each magical moment. In doing this, we will likely find healing and transformation—something our world can always use more of.

Experiencing Spirit in everything, is an ever evolving process. We have days where we are all thought. Other days, we seem to be more present; we flow with our experiences and sense into the deeper—even Divine—qualities that they offer. Trying to force this experience seems to backfire. It can’t be manufactured. Part of me wonders if it can even be practiced. Though cultivating a space in which we slow down and begin to observe our experiences with less judgment and commentary is helpful, it seems like grace is the ultimate ingredient. Maybe as we deepen our mindfulness practice, we learn to get out of our own way. And when we do, grace flows abundantly, giving us a glimpse of the Divine that has been there all along.

Conclusion

There are as many ways to practice mindfulness skills as there are thoughts to distract you from doing so.

The mindfulness prompts within these six pathways are just a few options to help you deepen your practice. As you continue to practice, I hope that you will experience many moments full of child-like wonder; that spending time with the stones will give you a greater appreciation for the mountains; and that your process will have a positive impact on the communities you are a part of.

In Gratitude

Thank you for sharing in this journey of mindfulness practices with me. However you have chosen to use these mindfulness prompts, I am grateful that you have taken the time to read Finding Stones in Mountains.

About the Author

I have been practicing different forms of mindfulness since 1999. As one of my passions, I always welcome the opportunity to share these practices with others. As a psychotherapist, I have found that integrating mindfulness-based skills with existential, transpersonal, and somatic/body-centered therapies can be very healing and transformative.

As a writer, I have always enjoyed journaling and writing poetry—the latter of which seemed to only get written during the darker periods of my life. In the past, I rarely shared my writing with anyone, though I did craft a small book of poetry that I gifted to family members one Christmas—the embedded poems were far from merry.

I am currently finishing my first novel, Gentle Departures. For me, working on this and other stories, poems, and articles each morning, has become a form of prayer.

I currently live in Berlin, Germany with my wife. This city and its many surrounding forests and lakes inspire me.

Connect

I would love to connect with you and hear how your mindfulness practice is going.

You can find me on Facebook or Instagram and at Joshcflowers.com for writing related projects—here you can also sign up to receive email updates, collaborate with me on stories of healing, and learn more about my forthcoming novel, Gentle Departures.

The novel includes some of the mindfulness practices from this book, as three characters from different walks of life—a conservative Christian widow, a formerly homeless drug addict, and a neurologist with a new perspective following a psychedelic experience—are brought together through a mysterious invitation to practice an ancient meditation that will transform each of their lives.

My therapeutic practice is at JoshFlowersCounseling.com. I realize that some of these mindfulness prompts would be easier to practice if you didn’t have to remember what you just read. To help with this, I will be posting audio versions of a few of the prompts. If this would be helpful to you, sign up to receive future email updates.

I also offer counseling for addictions, transitions, mental wellness, and deepening your mindfulness practice. I would be happy to support you on your healing journey.

Finally, if you are a therapist who would like to offer an e-book, I would enjoy helping you share your knowledge and passion with your community.

Further Reading

[_ 10% Happier _]- Dan Harris

A Gradual Awakening- Stephen Levine

A Path with Heart- Jack Kornfield

Being Peace- Thich Nhat Hanh

Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening- Cynthia Bourgeault

Essential Zen Habits- Leo Babauta

Holotropic Breathwork- Stanislav Grof and Christina Grof

Inner Work- Robert A. Johnson

Invitation to Love- Thomas Keating

Man and His Symbols- Carl Jung

Open Mind, Open Heart- Thomas Keating

Owning Your Own Shadow- Robert A. Johnson

Peace is Every Step- Thich Nhat Hanh

Practical Mysticism- Evelyn Underhill

Rediscovery of Awe- Kirk J. Schneider

The Book of Symbols- Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism

The Cloud of Unknowing- Unknown Monk

The Doors of Perception- Aldous Huxley

The Practice of the Presence of God- Brother Lawrence

The Stormy Search for the Self- Christina Grof and Stanislav Grof

The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying- Sogyal Rinpoche

Think on These Things- Jiddu Krishnamurti

Touching Enlightenment- Reginald A. Ray

When Things Fall Apart- Pema Chödrön

HAPPY MINDFULNESS!

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Guided Mindfulness Prompts

Stones in Mountains

Introduction

An Invitation: Using the Prompts

Working with Environmental Stimuli

Little Details

Food

A Favorite Tune

Words

Nature

Seeing Sound

Toes in the Grass

Colors

Addictions

Working with Cognitions

Honing the Blade/Following the Clouds

Intentional Imagination

Turning Down Thoughts

Narratives

Mantra

Working with Body/Somatic Experiences

Proprioception

Ship

Center of Me

Body Awareness

Stuck Point Release

Pleasure/Pain

Working with Emotional States

Stories

What Is In?

Welcome

Heart Space

Gratitude

Transitions

Working with Transpersonal States

Tracking with Awareness

Earth Embrace

Birth/Death

Darkness

Symbols

Being with Beings

Working with Relationships/Returning

Reflection

Circle of Support

Hug

Coming and Going

Gazing

Touch into Infinity

Spirit Animals

Spirit in Everything

Conclusion

About the Author

Connect

Further Reading


Finding Stones in Mountains: Discover the Six Paths to a Deeper Mindfulness Prac

Are you interested in deepening your mindfulness practice? Finding Stones in Mountains will help you connect with yourself, others, and the world around you in a more meaningful way. In it, you will discover the six paths that you can use to deepen your mindfulness practice. Mindfulness skills are presented through a series of insights and guided prompts, each helping you reconnect with the many wonders of your lived experience. "There is a wide range of ways in which we can practice mindfulness—from how we engage with our environment to how we notice our own thoughts, the whole world can be a resource for practice. In fact, we don’t even need to go out into the world for this; Our very beings offer a virtual playground for exploration. We can practice by diving deeper into an emotion or taking an intentional journey inward to explore the depths of our unconscious." "Learning to see again, as we did when we were children, is mindfulness. A returning to something familiar, something that was an integral part of our early experiences." —Finding Stones in Mountains Josh C. Flowers

  • Author: Josh C. Flowers
  • Published: 2017-09-13 18:35:23
  • Words: 17956
Finding Stones in Mountains: Discover the Six Paths to a Deeper Mindfulness Prac Finding Stones in Mountains: Discover the Six Paths to a Deeper Mindfulness Prac