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Mindful : August 2018
a physical sensation arises, investigate it and then wait for another to capture attention and investigate that—its qualities, pressure, tension, numb- ness, ease, temperature—and if there is no sensation, notice that. Do this for 5 to 10 minutes and then return to the breath in the body for a few minutes and end the practice.” Mine is a mind that longs for narrative, and will take any opportunity to wander, and so Open Monitoring is a practice I’m not sure is for me yet. But I am interested in approaching my practice with curi- osity, so I’ll keep Open Monitoring in my back pocket for later. I also schedule a Skype meeting with Sharon Salzberg. Sharon is a bona fide meditation rock star, and I am nervous about meeting her, but she is deeply real, and immediately sets me at ease. I want to talk to her about kindness—self-compassion being one of my biggest challenges. We talk about exercising the let- ting-go muscle, the work of coming back to your breath without blaming DAYS 21-29 The Letting-Go Muscle Joe is away on his own meditation retreat, so I check in with Patricia Rockman at the Centre for Mindful- ness Studies in Toronto. I’m curious about deepening my practice, and she offers me a new technique, Open Monitoring, in which I’d start with my breath as I’ve been doing, but then widen my attention to the rest of my body, investigating where my atten- tion is drawn, asking questions after- ward like what, where, when, and how was my attention drawn. I can’t help but notice that why isn’t on the list. As an analytical person, why is my favorite question of all time. But why invites narrative, Pat reminds me, and this mindfulness work has been about simply observing what is, not coming up with stories about why it is or what it means, or whether I am a victim or to blame. Sitting with this (literally and figuratively) is a paradigm shift for me, and to have the space to truly contemplate it and work to bring it into my daily life is a gift. Still, when I try Open Monitoring, it feels too chaotic to me. I struggle to bring my attention any where for any length of time and all I can think is that why, the easiest question to answer, is not important. At the end of 15 minutes I feel frazzled and wrong. While I’m glad I tried Open Monitoring, I think I need more practice just working with my breath—which is just what Pat recommends when I check in with her again about it. “I suggest you begin with your awareness of breath practice—attending to specific physical sensations of breathing at the belly, chest, or nostrils—for 5 to 10 minutes,” she tells me. “Then bring attention to the entire body, and when yourself, coming back with kindness. She offers me a technique to add to the 15 minutes I’m already doing. To begin with a few minutes of wishing myself well, with phrases like May I be happy, may I be peaceful—phrases broad enough that they can also be extended to others—first someone for whom I feel grateful, and then to all of life. And then at the end, to dedi- cate the practice, “even if it feels like nothing much,” she says, to those who have helped me, or those I know are hurting. This holds the breath practice in a bigger context, she says. “Mostly we don’t see the fruit of this practice in the 15 minutes. We see it in the rest of our life.” Perhaps we’re more patient, kinder to others, to ourselves. We can be more interested in other people—and be present with them, the exact same way we are present with the breath in our practice. I get a glimpse of this on Day 27. My husband’s brothers and their partners are over for supper, and we are making pierogies and sausages with lots of top- 50 mindful August 2018 meditation