Saturday, January 28, 2012
The Movie Screen in Your Mind
NOTE: The following was the second meditation exercise I led in the Happiness class this semester. (The first exercise was "Warm Up: Writing in a Sunny Waterfall." For many students, this was their first exposure to meditation. After the class, the teaching assistant for the course -- a college senior who has had considerable experience meditating -- sent me the email that follows the exercise.
Try this: close your eyes and slowly take in a long slow breath.
Release the breath from your nose, letting the air make a little puffing noise, quietly so only you can hear it.
Do it again. Slowly.
And when you release the air, let go of all the stress you're holding in your body.
Let your neck and shoulders go limp.
Let your head hang forward.
Let your jaw go slack.
Let your back soften.
Let the muscles soften in both arms.
Breathe in again. And again, let the air out with a quiet little puff. Think about your entire body going limp.
All the stress draining onto the floor and disappearing.
Keeping your eyes closed, now imagine a screen, a white screen, in the space right above your nose.
It's a screen like those you see in a movie theatre, or the one right here in the classroom.
This is your own private little movie screen. See it there in your mind right above your eyes, stretching to fill your forehead?
Stare at it for a moment. Let it stay white. Steady your inner gaze right on that screen.
Now shift your attention back to your breath.
Breathe in, normally. And then let the breath out, with a tiny puff. Feel the air coming out of your nose.
Maybe it feels warm. Maybe it feels cool. Maybe it wants to be a color.
Golden like the sun. Light blue like the sky. Pink and orange like a sunset.
Or white like the fluffy clouds and your movie screen.
Just let your breath be whatever it wants to be.
Try this for a few minutes.
Soon, something will pop up onto your movie screen.
A thought. A story of something you did. Something that's bothering you. A person you're angry at. Something you have to do. Somewhere you have to go. Somebody you miss dearly.
See it there on the movie screen.
And very slowly, breathe in. And when you release your breath with that little puff, imagine your breath magically wipes the movie screen clean.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Puff. The screen is clean.
The screen is clean.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
Maybe you want to count your breaths.
Breathe in. Puff out. One.
Breathe in. Puff out. Two.
Breathe in. Puff out. Three,
Breathe in. Puff out. Four.
Maybe there is another movie there.
There will be.
More and more and more movies.
And every time one more movie appears. One more thought. One more person. One more story. One more troubling idea.
See it there on the screen.
And then, puff it away with your breath.
Feel the breath.
And now, continue. As long as you can.
See the movie.
Let the breath puff the movie screen
Email from Lori Walker, TA for the Happiness class:
I just wanted to send you an e-mail and let you know that I really liked the "white screen" meditation that we did in class today :-). I could understand what some of the people in class were saying about how it was difficult to keep a "clear" mind after a while, but personally I enjoyed that. I found it easier to bring to my attention things that were on my mind and project them onto the screen and then dismiss them. It actually reminded me of that book by Deepak Chopra ("The Shadow Effect"), where he talks about bringing your emotions to your awareness and sitting with them as if they were a child and then letting them go. The visualization of the blank screen made it easier to bring those feelings into my awareness and then let them go. Perhaps towards the later part of the class, we should try that exercise again and see if any of the students like it any more?"