Mindfulness sample lesson plan
Here is an excerpt from Week 3 – “Making peace with the moment”
Theme for tonight:
Making Peace with the moment, instead of making the moment peaceful.
Most of us grow up in our western culture receiving few or no truly effective strategies for coping with the challenges and uncertainties of today’s world. The most common way we attempt to deal with life is by seeking to control it, believing that if we can only fix this or that ‘problem’, it will go away and we’ll finally be able to rest in peace and comfort. But that peace and comfort never arrives because life is constantly presenting us with new challenges, which is the nature of being human. And so we spend our lives, striving for control of the uncontrollable. When we realize we can’t control life, we seek to escape through sensory pleasures such as food, drink, sex, entertainment, technology or work etc.…
When we can accept the natural conditions of life, the unchanging principles, we can begin the process of making peace with the moment instead of trying to make the moment peaceful.
1. Everything changes and ends. Everything in life has a cycle of arising, sustaining and falling away. Everything.
2. Things don’t always go according to plan—we don’t have the control we like to think we have.
3. Life is not always fair or comfortable—we all arrive with our own contracts so fairness is an unreasonable expectation. If you’re too comfortable you’re likely not growing.
4. People are not always loving, honest, loyal or generous—yes, that includes youJ.
Take a moment to read and reflect on these conditions, and to notice where they are at play in your life right now. Share with a partner a time when you’ve experienced any or all of these in your life.
Quiet Moment (10 min):
Take a few minutes to write down concrete examples of each of these unchanging principles in your own life. Reflect on how accepting them changes your relationship to them.
As a class, share a few responses as to how acceptance of life’s conditions actually changes your relationship to them? Did anyone feel more at peace, relaxed? Perhaps somewhat depressed? Did anyone feel disappointed by life? Many of us have been misinformed about the nature of life, especially if our well-intentioned parents protected us from the simple truth that nothing is permanent, that everything changes. If so, we are often thrown surprises, since people, even those we know and love, are inconsistent and life is not fair (how often do we teachers hear that on the playground!).
Meditation (about 25 min)
Let’s begin our meditation with Guidelines on physical posture during meditation.
When our physical body is resting in true alignment, we are more likely to settle into a state of mental and emotional harmony. These are general guidelines to follow to the best of your ability, while keeping in mind that many people access meditative states in a variety of different positions. You do not have to be able to turn yourself inside out in order to experience mindful awareness!
1. Spinal alignment
Choose a position that feels suitable for you right now. Unless you are living with an illness, we advise that you sit up, with your spine tall, since the body is conditioned to equate lying down with sleeping. Initially, you may find it very difficult to sit up straight unsupported by a backrest so feel free to slide back and rest your spine against the chair. We do however want to gradually strengthen the muscles along the spine so that we can sit at the edge of a chair or on a cushion without support. The position of sitting tall is important as it represents the inner state of wakefulness that we cultivate through mindful practices.
Take a moment now to find an upright position, gently leaning from one sit bone to the other, visualizing your energy anchoring into the earth. Recite quietly to yourself as you shift side to side: “Here Now…Here Now…Here Now.”
2. Legs and Feet
The legs can either be bent at a 90-degree angle with feet in the floor or they can be crossed in Sukhasana, easy pose. If the legs are extended in front of you, make sure your feet are resting completely on the floor. If they are dangling, it may feel more comfortable to slide blocks beneath them for additional support.
The traditional posture with the legs crossed symbolizes our commitment to sit for a period of time. With our legs crossed, we can’t move about.
If your legs are crossed and your knees are higher than your hips, elevate the hips with extra support, allowing the hips to release and the knees to relax down. You might also feel more comfortable with support beneath the knees as well.
Note that very few westerners can sit safely in Full Lotus, Padmasana, so we advise that you keep the soles of your feet parallel to the floor, instead of upward facing.
Take a moment to relax the hips and legs, letting your lower body surrender to gravity.
3. Arms and hands
Slide your upper arms back so they hang in line with the torso. This will be the most restful position for the neck and shoulders. With your hands resting on your thighs, you can choose to have your hands open faced to the sky, or turned down toward the earth. Try both and see which option feels energetically aligned with your state of being. If you have a favorite mudra, or hand position, you can assume that or simply let your fingers relax in a slightly curled position.
Take a moment here to let your arms hang gently with your hands resting peacefully on your lap.
4. Head position
Ideally the head is positioned directly over the spinal column with the neck in a neutral position. This prevents compression in the neck. It may require some effort to uphold this posture since many people today commonly have a slumped spine with the head thrust forward. Unconsciously and over time, we develop this posture by driving, working at the office, bent over our electronic devices, or straining to see the computer screen.
Take a moment to tuck the chin in toward the throat, as you lift the base of the skull away from the neck. Now let the chin rise until it comes level to the floor and visualize your ears aligned over your shoulders. Finally, imagine a divine hand tugging at a string attached to the top of your head and gently lift the head, creating a quality of lightness throughout the neck and spine.
Notice how you feel here, from the tip of your toes to the top of your head. Can you feel the physical and energetic harmony of your body placed in a sacred way?
Shift your awareness to your breathing now, exhaling consciously a few times to relieve any discomfort or unnecessary exertion. We want this position to be one you can comfortably sustain for a few minutes.
Now imagine yourself as a container rather than a physical body. Imagine this container to be large enough to hold all of life’s challenges, disappointments, and struggles. Do so from your heart centre with compassion, grace and ease. When we’re immersed in chaos, we can expand our awareness and hold space for life’s unchanging principles with an attitude of acceptance.
As we let go of the illusion that it’s possible to create a perfect, pain-free life, we stop the constant striving to make the moment peaceful and learn to make peace with the moment, as it is. Can you feel the beauty in this perspective? Can you feel how it liberates and frees us from the constant need to change what is in this very moment?
Take a few moments now to rest in silence, enjoying the harmony of your physical body and the expanded nature of your energetic body. Notice how it feels to suspend any belief that you need to change anything right now, just allow your life, with all its perceived imperfections to just be. as it is with nothing to change or fix. Allow yourself to become absorbed in this state of peace. As we sit for the next few minutes, you can silently recite the mantra: I am peace. ‘I am’ is recited on the inhale, ‘Peace’ on the exhale.
Slowly return your attention to your breathing and to the sensation in your body. Take a moment to relax here before we transition out of meditation. When you feel ready you can open your eyes, stretch out your legs and fold forward, letting the head gently release toward the earth.
Group discussion (about 10 min) and Q and A on the mindfulness process and physical posture.
Closing quote: Let nothing disturb your peace of mind.
Namaste and Peace, Peace, Peace. Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.
May I grow in my ability to quiet my self-invested drive, so that I may be a true vehicle for love and wisdom, shared through a generous heart.