Mindfulness and Meditation
It's time to stop, pause and take a breath.
About these episodes
Does your mind need soothing? Rachel and Kelly are joined by Joanna Thyer from the UTS Multi-Faith Chaplaincy to take part in a guided meditation and to discuss the importance of reducing stress and enhancing our well-being during times of uncertainty. Debra Kelly the Buddhist Chaplain at UTS leads a five minute breathing exercise to connect our mind and body, and to help us remain grounded during times of stress or anxiety. So sit back, close your eyes and enjoy the next few moments of calm.
The Mountain meditation with Joanna Thyer
Olivia: Hi everyone, my name is Liv and I have been behind the scenes producing and editing the UTS Student Hacks Podcast this year. What you will now be hearing is a five-minute breathing exercise led by Debra Kelly the Buddhist Chaplain here at UTS. So sit back, relax and enjoy.
Debra: Hello, I’m Debra Kelly, Buddhist Chaplain here at UTS. I work in the Multi-Faith Chaplaincy Department and I lead guided meditation sessions once a week for students and staff. What you’re going to hear now is a five minute guided meditation on the breath.
Debra: Let’s come home to ourselves, come back to our body sitting here either on a chair or a cushion, and close your eyes if you like.
Debra: First of all, putting our attention on the sensation of our body sitting here. Making ourselves as comfortable as we can. Our head balanced easily on top of our spine, our spine long and straight without being rigid. Our hands loose in our lap.
Debra: Now connecting with our breath, the beautiful breath that connects mind and body. Becoming aware of where we most notice the breath, maybe in the nose, maybe in the chest or the belly. And focusing our attention onto the place where we feel the breath most.
Debra: Nothing to do, nowhere we have to be, but just sitting here, right now, in this sacred present moment, just breathing and feeling grateful we can breathe. If we can breathe, there are far more right with us than wrong with us. Just following the breath as it moves in and out of our body.
Debra: We might notice that our body is softening more with every out breath, our shoulders are relaxing more and more, our face is soft around the eyes and mouth. There’s no tension anywhere, we feel relaxed, grateful and at peace.
Debra: Let’s sit here for a minute or two, just riding the waves of our own breathing. If thoughts come up, we very gently acknowledge them and return our attention to our breathing, again and again.
Debra: Open your eyes. Remember you can tune into this calm centre at any time during the day. It’s your refuge, your peaceful space, your space to rest and recharge. Thank you for listening.
Guided meditation with Hindu Chaplain Dr Ashit-Mohan Maitra
Olivia: Hi there and welcome to this guided meditation with Dr Ashit-Mohan Maitra, the Hindu Chaplain at the UTS Multi-faith Chaplaincy. This meditation explores becoming aware of the breath and calming the mind for deep relaxation.
Ashit: Hello, I'm the UTS Hindu chaplain Dr. Ashit Mohan-Maitra. I conduct meditation, spiritual discourses and counselling for students and staff on Fridays. Since the COVID outbreak, these activities are being conducted over the zoom, telephone and email.
Ashit: Please feel free to contact me. Contact details are there on the UTS multi-faith chaplaincy web page. This short discourse on meditation and mindfulness is based on Hindu spiritual literature and tradition. Meditation is a process of concentrating our attention on one thought, to the exclusion of all other thoughts. And eventually, maybe no thoughts at all.
Ashit: Mindfulness is awareness or events or thoughts. As a witness, always being at the current moment, not dwelling on the past, not planning for the future. In meditation context, mindfulness is meditation on our own mind. This discourse is to give you a little experience in meditation practice, and enable you to decipher for yourself, quiet your real identity is whether you should identify yourself with your body, or the body mind complex, or your spirit.
Ashit: By spirit, we mean something that does not change, which is indestructible, eternal. All other things change, they are matter, our body, our mind, our own matter. Normally, we define our mind by our thoughts, most of which merely consume much of our mental energy and keep the mind dull. In meditation, we observe our thoughts as a witness. Then concentrate on a selected idea. Practiced sincerely meditation can eliminate unwanted thoughts, calm the mind, make the mind shut, alert, pure, peaceful, powerful. Even a little practice of this meditation can overcome a lot of impediments that restrict our lives achievements. The actual medical actual meditation practice requests us to feel relaxed. It is harmful to meditate forcibly, relaxation can of course been induced to some extent by controlling the breath.
Ashit: The general rule is when the inhalation that is the breathing in is slow, deep, long strong, it is comfortable, it is energizing. When the exhalation that is breathing out is slow, long, soft, comfortable, self- catalysing in a loving way. It is relaxing. For meditation, one also needs to cultivate the attitude of an attentive student who is mindful at each moment, aware of each thought that arises in the mind, who is humble, grateful, open, receptive. With this background, let us now get ready for the practice.
Ashit: Take a few moments to find a comfortable sitting posture, feeling as relaxed and comfortable as possible. Keep your spinal cord upright with your head and neck erect. Hands on your lap, the palms soft and turn upward. Slowly close your eyes. If you're sitting in a chair make sure your feet are flat onto the floor. In a moment we'll take three deep breaths and relax more with each breath.
Ashit: The first breath in, slow deep long strong yet comfortable breath in. Hold the breath till you feel a bit tense. Then exhale, let go. The second breath in, let some tension build, then let go, relax even more deeply. The third breath in hold, feel the tension, then let go.
Ashit: Then come back to normal spontaneous breath. Mentally watch each breath in and each breath out for a minute or so, till your breath feels more subtle. Then add the mantra 'so', and 'hum' to the soft and subtle vibration of your breath. Mentally chanting So, as you breathe in, and hum as you breathe out, as if the breath and the mantra are fused together.
Ashit: So, Hum. Mantra is a special sound vibration that has the power to go deep into the mind soothing the intellect. If any thoughts or feelings come to your mind, simply observe them as a weakness. Then slowly get back to your breath and the mantra so, hum. Slow, smooth, soft, relaxed.
Ashit: Continue for two to three minutes.
Ashit: Then stop this practice and gaze into the dark space at the center of your heart, in the middle of the chest. This is spiritual heart, it is like a dark, empty cave. In the center of this cavity, place a luminous image of your chosen idol. Your chosen idea could be the face of one you love, someone pure, nobel. One may choose the face of Lord Shiva, Vishnu, Mahakali, Touka, Krishna, Jesus Christ, Mother Mary, Gautama Buddha or some other face dear to you. Or an impersonal signal symbol. Any impersonal symbol, a temple, a crescent moon or just a cool steady golden flame. It is the symbol of your area sense. The source of peace, power, purity consciousness. Remember, your heart is now the seat of your chosen idol. So feel that your heart is full of love, purity, adoration, reverence with all humility and gratitude you mentally chant your mantra or chant 'oh, oh, oh'.
Ashit: Stay in this state for 10 minutes or longer to come out of meditation, turn your attention to your breath, your body, and your surroundings. Stretch your fingers, the toes, the limbs, stroke your face. When confident, open your eyes.
A five minute breathing exercise with Buddhist Chaplain Debra Kelly
Kelly: Hi there, hope your week hasn’t been too stressful for you! We’re nearly done, just a couple of weeks away from the finish line meaning the Spring session is nearly officially done. And what a time it has been!
Kelly: More than ever, this semester, whether it’s your first or not, you may have gone on many highs and lows.
Rachel: That’s why we decided to take this time to…breathe. As easy as this sounds, stopping and pausing and taking a breath may be challenging when you want to get through heaps of tasks. To make this process easier, Joanna, the multi-faith chaplaincy coordinator at UTS is going to lead us in a guided meditation called the Mountain meditation. Enjoy!
Joanna: Hi I’m Joanna Thyer, I coordinate UTS Multi-faith Chaplaincy, and we have quite a few chaplains on campus with us, and we also have on-site and off-site meditations at offered for students and staff at the moment by the different faith groups, particularly by the Hindu and Buddhist Chaplains at the moment, and if you want to talk to a Chaplain you’re welcome to talk to myself or any other chaplains here.
Joanna: It’s Mental Health Week, now more than ever, personal and communal wellbeing is important since there are so many things going on that are outside our control. How do we look after ourselves and each other, and also engage with our work and studies in an engaging way, reducing stress and enhancing our wellbeing as much as possible despite the understandable anxieties. Well spirituality and mindfulness can help. Spirituality can be defined as beyond the physical and material world, spirit connecting with something, with an energy outside ourselves, our hearts, something that can lead to greater self-care. Some have also referred to it as an energy that animates the universe. Mindfulness can be defined as basically bringing our minds back in attitude and non-judgement, developing self-awareness with the present moment and starting the day consciously, managing stress and the flight or fight response better, and also managing intense emotions such as loneliness, fear and anxiety. It often involves stopping, pausing, taking a breath and pondering the appropriate action.
Joanna: Sit with a straight back, your head held erect on your neck and allow the shoulders to fully relax. Place your hands on your knees.
Joanna: Bring your attention to the flow of your breathing. Feeling each inbreath and each outbreath. Just observing your breathing without trying to change it or regulate it in any way. Allowing the body to be still. And sitting with a sense of dignity, a sense of resolve, a sense of being complete, whole, in this very moment, with your posture reflecting this sense of wholeness.
Joanna: And as you sit here, picturing in your mind's eye as best you can the most beautiful mountain that you know or have seen or can imagine. Just holding the image and feeling of this mountain in your mind's eye, letting it gradually come into greater focus. Observing its overall shape. Its lofty peak high in the sky, the large base rooted in the rock of the earth's crust. Its steep or gently sloping sides. Noticing how massive it is, how solid, how unmoving, how beautiful both from afar and up close.
Joanna: Perhaps your mountain has snow at the top and trees on the lower slopes. Perhaps it has one prominent peak, perhaps a series of peaks or a high plateau. Whatever its shape or appearance, just sitting and breathing with the image of this mountain. Observing it, noticing its qualities and when you feel ready, seeing if you can bring the mountain into your own body so that the body sitting here and the mountain in your mind's eye become one. So that as you sit here you share in the massiveness and the stillness and majesty of the mountain. You become the mountain rooted in the sitting posture, your head becomes the lofty peak, supported by the rest of the body, despite the changes in weather through spring, summer, autumn and winter, through freezing temperatures, storms or heat.
Joanna: In any season, it may find itself at times enshrouded in clouds or fog or pelted by freezing rain. People may come to see the mountain and comment on how beautiful it is or on how it's not a good day to see the mountain. None of this matters to the mountain which remains at all times its essential self. Clouds may come, and clouds may go. The mountain's magnificence and beauty are not changed one bit by the way people see it or not or by the weather.
Joanna: In the same way, as we sit in meditation, we can learn to experience the mountain. We can embody the same unwavering stillness and rootedness, in the face of everything that changes in our own lives over seconds, over hours, over years.
Joanna: In our lives and in our meditation practice, we constantly experience the changing nature of mind and body and of the outer world. We have our own periods of light and darkness, our moments of colour and our moments of drabness. Certainly, we experience storms of varying intensity and violence in the outer world and in our own minds and bodies. We endure periods of darkness and pain, as well as the moments of joy.
Joanna: Even our appearance changes constantly, experiencing a weather of its own.
By becoming the mountain in our meditation practice, we can link up with its strength and stability and adopt it for our own. We can use its energies to support our energy to encounter each moment with mindfulness and equanimity and clarity.
Joanna: It may help us to see that our thoughts and feelings, our preoccupations, our emotional storms and crises, even the things that happen to us, are very much like the weather on the mountain. We tend to take it all personally but its strongest characteristic is impersonal.
Joanna: The weather of our own lives is not to be ignored or denied. It is to be encountered, honoured, felt, known for what it is and held in awareness. And in holding it in this way, we come to know a deeper silence, and stillness, and wisdom. Mountains have this to teach us and much more if we can come to listen.
Joanna: Sit with this experience of the mountain for a few more minutes.
Kelly: I found the guided meditation quite relaxing and really got me to be in the moment. I have to say I nearly fell asleep as I was very comfortable. I have never tried meditation before and this was an eye-opening experience. I might suggest putting some ambient sounds like a forest or ocean to really set the mood. You can find these on YouTube by doing a quick search.
Rachel: I felt quite the same as Kelly! I’ll be honest, at first I found it hard to take myself seriously because I’m not used to just sitting and listening to my breath, but once I got into it, I started forgetting about worries for a bit. And even if it was brief, I really appreciate tuning everything out. I might actually stick to meditating every now and then, especially when I feel like I need to take a break.
Kelly: I hope this episode with the guided meditation helps relieve any stress that has built up and help you focus on tasks.
Rachel: Our next episode is on surviving the assessment period. Until then-
Rachel and Kelly: Stay chill.
Ambient sounds from YouTube
Presented by Kelly Ding & Rachel Khalef
Produced and Edited by Liv Day
Guests in this episode:
- Joanna Thyer, UTS Multi-Faith Chaplaincy Coordinator.
- Debra Kelly, Buddhist Chaplain at UTS.
- Ashit Mohan Maitra, Hindu Chaplain at UTS