Guided mindfulness and compassion meditations are designed to increase our baselines levels of focused attention, mindful awareness, and compassion for self and others. These skills, in turn, can helps us to be more emotionally balanced, calm, and peaceful. In fact, scientific studies demonstrate that meditation practices are a key means of building the skills underlying resilience and flourishing.
Click the links to listen to the audio files below. (You may need to enable pop-up windows in your browser.) You may also view a transcript of the audio files.
Breath Awareness (led by Blake Colaianne) [Click to listen, approx. 5 mins.]
Three Letting Be's (led by Brooke Lavelle) [Click to listen, approx. 6 mins.]
Gratitude Practice (led by Sinhae Cho) [Click to listen, approx. 6 mins.]
Loving Kindness (led by Elaine Berrena) [Click to listen, approx. 7 mins.]
Body Scan (led by Elaine Berrena) [Click to listen, approx. 7 mins.]
Focus on Sound-Silence (led by Sinhae Cho) [Click to listen, approx. 11 mins.]
Basic Guidelines for Meditation Practice
Find a Time that Works
You may find that doing the practice at the same time is the most beneficial for your schedule—perhaps early in the morning or before bed at night. Alternatively, it may be easier for you to make time to do small practices like pausing and consciously breathing for a few breaths or reminding oneself of what one is grateful for at different times each day.
If you choose to use these guided practices, it is useful to complete the guided practice in one session—resisting the distractions that normally capture our attention. Indeed, this kind of commitment to self-care is a key part of the practice itself. Try not pause the practice once you start in order to do something else or respond to a text message. Set an intention to pay attention to the practice for the designated amount of time during the day to complete the practice uninterrupted.
Find a Quiet Place
Ideally the best place to practice is a space where you feel safe, secure, and is free from distraction. However, there will never be a perfectly quiet space for practice, so making space for ambient sounds that can occur during your meditation is important. Rather than fight with such sounds, see if you can accept them as being present and return to the practice.
Get a Virtual Group Together
Practicing with other people is highly encouraged! See if you might be able to create a Zoom meeting with a few people and make a plan to do the practices together during a specific time.
Find the Right Position
Meditation can be practiced sitting, standing, lying, or walking.
- Sitting in a Chair: You can practice sitting in a comfortable, upright position in a chair. Sit in the chair so that your spine is straight but not stiff. Shoulders relaxed. Feet planted on the floor and hands resting gently in your lap. Your posture can be upright, dignified and alert, but not rigid. Try to avoid slouching in the chair or if you are at a table do not place your head on the table like you are going to take a nap. Keeping the spine straight will allow the body to relax into itself as you meditate.
- Sitting on a Cushion on the Floor: While we often think of meditation as happening sitting cross-legged on a cushion on the floor, this is an option but not necessary. If you have challenges with your hips, lower back or knees to the point of distraction when you sit like this, then the chair is probably a better option. Sit towards the end of your cushion and cross your feet one in front of the other (traditional cross-legged sitting, easy style) or try a half lotus position by placing one foot on the opposite thigh. Make sure your knees and hips are relaxed, and if you have a yoga block or additional cushions you can place them under your knees for additional support if you feel discomfort. Sit with your back straight but not rigid. Shoulders relaxed and your hands resting in your lap. Again, we are looking to engage an upright posture where the spine is straight but we are not straining or stiff.
- Lying Down: For all practices, you also have the option of lying down if this is most comfortable for your body. However, if you are tired, then this posture may promote sleepiness and sitting in a chair or on a cushion might be a better option. You may also wish to take a short nap if that is the case and practice when you are more alert. If you choose to lie down, lie on your back with legs either straight or bent, and arms relaxed on your body or by your side. Avoid practicing in this position if you are very tired.
It's important to be comfortable when practicing meditation. Wear clothes that aren’t too tight and you feel relaxed in. Don’t feel like you need to sit in complete stillness during the practice if you feel uncomfortable. Change your position if necessary to feel at ease in your body.
Turn off Your Cell Phone
Before you slip into your meditation, put it on airplane mode, or silence it (no vibrate mode!). There’s nothing more distracting than hearing a buzz indicating you have a new email or text, which—even if your willpower is strong and you don’t peek—will spin your mind into the cycle of wondering who it’s from and what it’s about.
As you advance in your practice, you can purposefully leave your phone on and become aware of, but not respond to, the various incoming notifications. It turns out that our ability to focus is actually predicated on our ability to resist distractions, so purposefully trying to distract yourself and resisting this can actually train attention.
Remember that we are working from a baseline of the human mind that is distracted by thoughts, sensations, and feelings and that naturally wanders to the past and to the future. Don’t expect in the beginning to be able to hold your concentration steady during the guided meditation without getting lost in thoughts. This would be an unrealistic goal. Be patient and curious with yourself and take things one breath and one moment at a time just like you would when learning anything new, such as when learning a language, playing an instrument, playing a sport, or learning a dance.
Be Aware of Stereotypical Ideas About Meditation
Be aware that there are many stereotypes about meditation—for instance, that to be able to meditate we must be immediately able to still our mind or even “empty the mind.” These are not the goals of the meditations and are unrealistic. Rather, the goal is to practice awareness of whatever happens during the meditation period. Awareness is the essence of meditation. The experience of meditation can be pleasant, neutral or sometimes even unpleasant (e.g., sitting with difficult feelings). However, regardless of what the experience of meditation is like, if you are aware of what is happening, then that is the essence of the practice. We meditate to clarify, deepen and free our awareness to and come more fully into our lives, which are always unfolding now, and now and now and... Meditation helps us to be here now, where our life is always unfolding!