Summer Meditation Retreat: 6 Mindfulness Practices for Self-Care
The word “savoring” crops up a lot in instructions for mindful eating, but why stop there? Inspired by that notion, I decided to challenge myself to a week of savoring things. As I started out, I began to see that I was automatically leaving lots of things out—things that were, well, unsavory—so the challenge had to undergo some immediate reengineering. It would have to become about savoring everything. Yikes.
If I was going to savor the unsavory I would have to be thankful somehow for whatever came my way.
That immediately led me to the understanding that if I was going to savor the unsavory I would have to be thankful somehow for whatever came my way. I would have to embrace the artificially sweetened (but still valuable) “attitude of gratitude.” It was a bit of a revelation. What I was prepared for was taking time to really enjoy things, in the present moment. What I wasn’t prepared for was how much it would challenge underlying attitudes and assumptions. When the week was over, I came to some conclusions about how savoring can reach into every area of life.
6 Ways to Savor the Moment
By Barry Boyce
1) When things are good…savor the joy
When things are good, it should be easy to savor them. But it took more effort to savor something I already appreciated than I would have imagined. Joy came in the sudden realization that the body is always in the present, no matter where my thoughts take me, and I can always return to that.
2) When it’s every kind of bad…savor the resilience
I can glimpse the fact that pain, whether physical or emotional, is something that lets us know we are alive. And as we try to manage it as best we can, we are humbled, we are vulnerable, we seek help. We find a way. We bounce back. And, as we savor the equanimity, we learn to take the good and the bad.
3) When it’s boring…savor the freedom
As we all keep discovering in meditation, we don’t really need to keep ourselves occupied with extra thoughts. It’s peaceful to take a break from that. My savoring challenge helped me learn (once again) to savor the freedom from the need to entertain myself every minute of the day.
4) When it’s unwieldy…savor the laughter
When things go haywire, the same tendency we have with hassles—to indulge in some “why me?” time—can easily take over. But, I’m starting to really appreciate the antidote that a meditation teacher friend of mine told me about: Just say “Why not me?”
5) When you’re alone…savor the space
In the right doses, being by ourselves can be deeply restorative. It can help us discover a deep reservoir of contentment that does not need to be chased after. That kind of space—a space of awe and wonder and simplicity—is well worth savoring. It may be the most savory treat of all.
6) When you’re with others…savor the companionship
The sheer joy of a shared laugh. The moments of listening when you need to be heard. The shoulder to cry on. Someone to share ups and downs, without caring which it is. I’m blessed with friends all over the world, people I can connect with within minutes no matter how long it’s been. Other human beings…what’s not to savor?
Summer Meditation Retreat: 6 Mindfulness Practices for Self-Care
Day 1: Connect With Presence
By Sharon Salzberg
If we can practice savoring the present moment when we’re sitting in formal meditation, we can also practice while standing in line at the grocery store, sitting anxiously in a doctor’s waiting room, or sitting down for a meal in good company. A portable exercise in meditation is focusing on the sensations of the in- and out-breath. If the breath is not a comfortable place for you, choose another object of attention like the sensation of your hands touching your knees.
A 10-Minute Breathing Meditation
This variation of breath meditation can be especially supportive if you feel restless or bored. Savor the freedom to simply let your mind be. It doesn’t matter how many times your attention wanders or how long you may dwell in distraction. The practice is gently letting go and, with kindness toward yourself, beginning again.
- Sit comfortably and relax. Let your attention settle on the feeling of the breath at the nostrils, chest, or abdomen. As you breathe in make the silent mental note “in,” and as you breathe out you can count “one.” This becomes inhale “in,” exhale “one,” inhale “in,” exhale “two,” all the way up to ten. When you get to ten you can begin again.
- If your mind becomes distracted, and you lose touch with the breath—that’s OK. You can begin again. Stay connected to the rhythm of the breath with the mental note and the number.
- See if your awareness of the breath can be full and complete. Your attention is wholehearted with “in, five,” “in, six,” “in, seven,” all the way through to ten. Each breath is full and complete on its own—with the counting there to support you.
- When you feel ready, you can move into the rest of your day.
A 7-Minute Meditation to Rest Your Attention
Our habitual tendency is to grasp a thought or a feeling, to build an entire world around it, or push it away and struggle against it. It can be helpful to instead note what is painful, pleasant, or otherwise. Here we stay even, balanced, and calm, as we recognize what arises and bring our attention back, one breath at a time.
- Sit comfortably or lie down. Settle in to a comfortable position.
- Center your attention on the sensations of the in- and out-breath, at the nostrils, chest, or abdomen. As you feel the sensations of the breath, you can make a mental note of “breath” with the in-breath and then again with the out-breath.
- When a thought or feeling arises that’s strong enough to take your attention away from the breath, note it silently as “not breath.” You don’t have to judge yourself; you don’t have to get lost in a thought or elaborate it. Recognize that it’s simply not the breath.
- Bring your attention back to the sensations of the breath. Some of your thoughts or feelings may be tender, caring, cruel, or hurtful, but they’re not the breath. You can recognize them, let them go, and bring your attention back to the sensations of the breath.
- When you feel ready, come back to your surroundings.
Day 2: Connect With Yourself
By Sebene Selassie
Belonging is the sense of ease and joy we can savor when we are truly present. Often we don’t feel like we belong because we’re caught in feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and doubt. Feelings of not belonging are learned over time and lead us to think that there’s something wrong with us, that we’re not enough, that we don’t belong—but we do. By the very nature of our existence, we belong. Mindfulness helps us remember this by allowing us to experience belonging in any moment.
A 9-Minute Meditation to Listen to Your Body
Meditation can help us be more present to life, and mindfulness of body and breath help ground that presence. It’s only when we’re present with each moment that we can savor our experience. You can try grounding yourself throughout the day, feeling the body and using the inquiry, “What’s happening in my body right now?”
- Find a comfortable posture. You don’t have to do anything special, just make sure that you’re relaxed and alert. Lower your gaze and give yourself the opportunity to go inward.
- Bring awareness to the sensations you notice while sitting. It can take some time and practice to feel sensations in the body rather than think about them. Is there a sensation in the body that’s particularly strong or clamoring for attention? It’s OK if you don’t notice anything. Just recognize your experience as it is and see if you can bring a sense of curiosity to it. You can ask yourself, “What’s happening in my body right now?”
- Whatever is happening, continue this inquiry. Notice the sensations that are present. When the mind starts to wander, gently bring your awareness back to the body. Again, ask yourself, “What’s happening in my body right now?”
- Bring the same curiosity to your breath. If the breath is not a comfortable place for you, continue grounding in sensations of the body. Otherwise, take a moment to connect to the natural rhythm of your breath. Notice your belly rising and falling. You can always ask yourself, “What’s happening in my body right now?”
- Know that you can come back to the body at any moment, as you come back to the space around you.
A 7-Minute Meditation to Welcome Open Awareness
Open awareness meditation is often associated with the metaphor of the mind being like an open sky. We can observe thoughts, sensations, sounds, but they simply pass like clouds in the sky, or they can flow like a river savor the space between you and what drifts past. The sky is not bothered, the river is not changed, everything is carried by the current of awareness.
- Find a comfortable posture. If you like you can gaze down softly at a point in front of you. Allow your body to soften and rest. Feel the connection between your body and the floor or the chair beneath you.
- Bring your awareness to the sensations of being right here, right now. Begin to listen to the play of sounds around you. You can notice sounds that are loud or soft, far or near—just listening. You don’t need to name the sound, or follow the sound, just listen in a relaxed and open way. Notice how all sounds arise and vanish as you listen.
- Sense that your awareness is expanding to be like the sky—open, clear, vast. Allow your awareness to extend in every direction. Sounds come and go, moving through the sky of your awareness, appearing and disappearing as you rest in this open awareness. You might notice that thoughts and images also arise and vanish. You can let them come and go without resistance or grasping.
- Allow the breath or sensations in the body to move like a breeze in this open sky of awareness. Notice that this awareness is naturally clear and spacious. Allow all sounds, thoughts, and sensations, feeling that spaciousness.
- As you lift your gaze, pause for a moment to reorient to the space around you.
Day 3: Connect With Everything
By Jessica Morey
We tend to focus our minds on what is wrong or threatening or what could harm us so that we might be better protected through the vagaries of life. But if we allow that bias to run rampant, we risk missing out on what’s beautiful, joyful, and nourishing in our lives. Not to mention, we grow less equipped to cultivate beauty and joy and nourishment in ourselves.
A 14-Minute Meditation to Appreciate Joy
Perhaps it seems strange to investigate what we consider to be a positive emotion, but we often miss joy. We don’t pay a lot of attention to it and let it slip by without much notice. The good news is, there are practices to cultivate joy. It can be sparked by something enjoyable, or we can attend to and support joy in our felt experience. One of the great ways to do that is to savor—really stop and savor—what’s beautiful and good in life.
- Take a seat or lie down if you’re in a place where you can do that. Take a few deep breaths, lengthening your inhale and your exhale. During these opening breaths, notice how you’re feeling. If you’re feeling tired or drowsy, emphasize the inhale. If you’re feeling agitated or restless, emphasize the exhale. Then allow your breath to come to its natural rhythm.
- Now bring to mind recent joyful moments. Alternatively, you could reflect on things you’re grateful for in your life. Choose a few moments of joy and gratitude to focus on.
- Reflect on receiving the joy of these experiences. Bring your attention into your body. Notice how you experience joy in this moment. Where do you feel it in your body? The chest, the belly, the throat, the face? What do you notice? Is there a temperature to the joy? Is there a flow or movement to the energy of joy in your body?
- If you lose that felt sense of connection, just recall the images, people, or situations that bring you joy. Then return to savoring the felt sense of joy in your body. Breathe into it.
- Take a moment to reflect on the people, places, or situations that bring you joy. What were the things that really inspired a felt sense of joy for you? How can you bring more of that into your life?
- When you’re ready, bring your attention back to your environment. Take a deep breath. Orient yourself to the space around you and notice how you feel right now.
A 14-Minute Meditation to Explore What’s True
Longing is a vulnerable emotion, but it’s also very important. It directs us toward what we want in the world—where we want to go, what we value, what we want to create. When we can stay with the emotion and get to know it on a deeper level, there’s a great deal of wisdom at our disposal. If we can feel into it, be with it, and notice what’s underneath and inside of it, we can then better decide how we want to respond next.
- Settle into a comfortable position. You may be seated, or you’re welcome to lie down. Wherever you are, take a few deep breaths. You can cast your gaze down and ahead.
- Feel into your body and ask yourself: Is there anything I need right now? Is there anything I’m longing for in this moment? You may want something to be different, or you may be longing for a particular experience. Ask yourself: What do I want? What do I need?
- If nothing is emerging for you, bring to mind a recent experience when you really wanted something. Maybe you wanted to be seen or acknowledged; maybe you wanted to connect with a certain person, or you wanted someone to call you or attend to you. Identify a recent experience you had of longing and consider the situation, the people, the place.
- Turn your attention toward the felt sense of the wanting. Hold this feeling of wanting, and as you do, see if you can identify what it is that you want—below the particularities. What universal need are you touching upon? Maybe you want respect, ease, joy, or connection.
- Consider this question: How could I meet this need? Take a few moments to explore the creative ways this need could be met.
- Take a few deep breaths. Feel your body on the chair or on the ground. When you’re ready, lift your gaze.
Taking a moment to pause can enable us to move in the direction of suffering, to work, and to alleviate it, with wisdom and compassion.
When we allow what is to simply be, we relieve ourselves of the suffering that can get heaped on top of our moments of difficulty. That extra suffering is optional, even if the difficult causes and conditions are not.
Explore how meditation can help you investigate emotions and feelings that come up with panic—with a curiosity to see what’s actually there.