phynedyning

Don’t just sit there, moan.

In Lifestyle on January 8, 2013 at 10:03 am

It’s been some time since Phyne Dyning served up a platter of mindfulness. Today, I’ll pass along a meditative tool I’ve been using for about six months. Dr. Andrew Peterson’s 2010 book, The Next Ten Minutes, gives readers about fifty, ten-minute exercises intended to improve mindfulness and help still your mind’s internal chatter.

thWhen I first thumbed through the book, I found some of Peterson’s exercises amusing and even a bit silly. Since the possibility of looking silly has never before restrained me, I plopped down some federal scrip and took the book home.

First, a bit of review.

I’ve been practicing Soto school Zen meditation for just over two years. A hallmark of this meditative style is that it does not rely on external focal points during meditation. Practitioners use only their breath to return to ‘now’. There are no candles or mantras.

Consequently, Peterson’s exercise “Moan” intrigued me. I had never used mantras, except during brief sessions of chanting with my rabbi’s spirituality group. “Moan” would give me an opportunity to more deeply explore vocalization as a meditative technique.

And, now, let’s practice the “Moan”.

My preparation for the exercise was identical to my standard pre-meditative routine.

Loose clothing and no shoes is a must. After taking care of any ‘necessaries’ (mandatory down time) and washing for comfort, I typically sit quietly and look out into the garden. We have a large and varied population of woodpeckers and nuthatches and intensely watching their antics sets up the background for my sitting sessions. As I observe the birds in their routines, I begin to focus on my breath. At this point, I’m not seeking to control my breath. I’m simply becoming aware of a process I have repeated throughout my life without mindfulness.

If I have not done so, I move my cushion into place and I settle into position. (If you’re first experimenting with meditation as you follow along, you may do this exercise sitting in a chair.) Next, I begin to clear my mind. This is one of the most challenging steps, as clearing one’s mind actually makes one more aware of the mental chatter and this is exactly opposite of mindfulness.

Just focus on your breath. In…out…in…out…

Thoughts will come. Just let them drift by without examining them.

Now…

…moan.

Begin the moan deep in your chest. Feel it? Take further notice of the moan as it progresses upward and out. Vary its pitch and volume, always focusing closely on the resulting moan. Use long moans. Let them rip, low and melodious. Continue moaning throughout the (ten minute) meditative session.

At the conclusion of the session, return to using your breath as a focal point. Moaning and breathing are closely related and this is why I found this exercise attractive as a beginning point for experimentation.

Now, begin to return to your activities mindfully. Look and notice where you put your hands and feet as you rise. Notice your surroundings. Move purposefully and deliberately, thinking about what your are doing, rather than pondering the chatter related to what is already done, or what will be done next.

That’s it.

I find moaning to be like having a tool in my meditative toolbox. I don’t use the technique every day, or even with any kind of regularity. It’s just there if I want to use it.

A final note on trying the technique.

You will feel self-conscious during the exercise and it’s probably a good idea to let those around you, if any, in on what you will be doing. It looks ‘silly’, but don’t let that stop you.

It’s only ten minutes.

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