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Expand This Moment
Focused Meditations to Quiet Your Mind, Brighten Your Mood & Set Yourself Free
By John Selby
New World LibraryCopyright © 2011 John Selby
All rights reserved.
ENJOY THIS MOMENT
When you are walking or bathing, eating or doing whatever be aware of your breath — that is meditation.
Be aware of the ingoing and the outgoing of the breath, the rhythm and the process. Your mind will become silent because your total mind is engaged in witnessing the breathing.
I drove into town this morning to see the skin doctor about a curious little growth on my scalp. Here in Hawaii we're alert to skin cancer because of all the sunlight we indulge in yearround. An acquaintance died a while back because he ignored a skin condition that was indeed melanoma, and so it was natural that I found myself sitting tensely while awaiting the doctor's verdict. Moreover, my brother went to the doctor six months ago complaining of a headache that wouldn't go away, and he was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer — so of course my mind was caught up in worst-scenario anxieties about the new lump on my head.
I'm sure you know this basic life situation, where your future is uncertain and you fixate on your fear-based apprehensions. All sense of joy in the present moment seems to collapse when anxious forebodings dominate the mind, messing with your emotions, constricting your breathing, and fogging your thoughts.
In one way, I'm lucky when it comes to breaking free from such worrying. After all, I get paid to focus day in and day out on discovering and testing new methods for shifting from feeling bad to feeling good. My life study has been meditation, which is in essence a cognitive process for letting go of fearbased emotional contractions and entering a more fulfilling, compassionate, creative, and harmonious state of mind.
So, when I realized I was making myself suffer while awaiting the doctor, I remembered to practice what I preach. I did what I hope you'll start doing — I brought to mind the first of the twelve Focus Phrases I'm going to teach you, and said silently to myself on my next exhale:
I choose to enjoy this moment.
First I said to myself, "I choose ...," which enabled me to assume control of my own mind.
Then I said "to enjoy ...," which specified where I chose to aim my attention — at enjoyment.
Then came the object of my focus, "this moment ...," which aimed my attention at the immediate sensory events happening inside and around me right then.
The result was that my awareness instantly popped away from fearful imaginations about the future, toward whatever enjoyable sensations were present at the moment. By filling my mind with words of positive intent, I was able to turn away from the fearful chatter running in the back of my mind, and reconnect with ongoing sensory events happening right then inside my body.
You'll soon discover that, as I described in the introduction, whenever you shift your attention back to what's happening in the present moment, you naturally tune in first to your own breath. This shift is ideal because, as other researchers and I confirmed in perceptual studies we did some years ago at the National Institutes of Health, as soon as you focus on the sensation of air flowing in and out of your nose, all thoughts tend to simply fade away and stop. This instant quieting of the mind in turn generates relief from anxious imaginations and emotions.
Regain your vital presence as a participant in the here and now. This is where all sensation and enjoyment actually take place.
And indeed, as I sat there in the doctor's cubicle, my sensory attention woke up when I said to myself, "I choose to enjoy this moment," tuned in to my breathing, and let go of upsetting memories and forebodings that'd been grabbing at me. As I took a good breath of air, I spontaneously stretched a little and woke up good feelings in my body. Just then, the doctor came in, took a look at my lump, and told me that the growth was totally benign. There was in reality nothing to worry about.
NO MORE TORTURE CHAMBERS
If we're honest with ourselves, most of us will admit we tend to run torture chambers inside our own minds. We spend part of our lives tormenting ourselves with worries about the future — fearful imaginings and forebodings that almost never become reality. Think back over your life and consider the vast number of times you've worried yourself sick about some potentially negative financial, health, or relationship situation that never came to pass — or if it did, it generated much less emotional suffering than all your worrying did.
Several of the Focus Phrases you'll be learning are aimed specifically at giving you the power to regularly short-circuit your habitual anxiety habits. The first Focus Phrase by itself can often do the job, once you practice a bit, by helping you temporarily refocus your attention away from thoughts about the past and future. By returning your attention to the experiential present moment, you will be able to relax, tune in to your sensory presence, and more times than not, thoroughly enjoy your here-and-now experience.
Most of your waking moments take place in safe and enjoyable situations. Maybe now and then you are forced to deal with real danger and physical suffering, but you'll find that usually, when you refocus on your present-moment experience, you are indeed free to enjoy the moment rather than suffer.
It's the culturally ingrained habit of fearfully imagining negative future possibilities that generates most of our suffering.
And you do have a clear choice each new moment: You can focus on negative anxious thoughts, uncomfortable or painful sensations, depressing guilt-ridden memories, or anxiety provoking future imaginations. Or you can focus on any of the vast assortment of positive sensations, creative flashes, empathetic emotions, and uplifting thoughts that make you feel good, confident, open, bright, and yes, happy.
When you choose between anxiety and enjoyment, there's really no reason to choose anxiety. In fact, when you see clearly that you have the choice, there's hardly any choice to be made. The same basic logic applies to all other negative mental habits, such as heaping guilt and blame on your head, judging others overmuch, thinking thoughts that make you feel depressed or angry or wronged, and so on. You do have the power to choose to quiet such thoughts and shift your attention to the pleasure of the present moment.
BREATH-ASSISTED EMOTIONAL RECOVERY
Once you get good at this process, 80 to 90 percent of the time you'll probably find that you can say "I choose to enjoy this moment ..." and immediately feel a positive response in the direction of letting go of emotional constrictions inside you. However, maybe 10 to 20 percent of the time you might find yourself seriously caught up in bad feelings that simply won't go away. What to do?
When this happens, you'll want to shift to an alternate meditation in which you simply sit quietly and focus on your breathing experience, and at the same time focus wherever in your body you feel emotional or physical discomfort. For five to ten minutes, do nothing else — just open up and experience what happens.
Psychologically, and spiritually as well, there does seem to exist a natural emotional-healing mechanism within you that knows the wisdom of aiming healing attention, acceptance, and love toward an old emotional wound. Your challenge is to hold your attention on your breathing and on your inner pain, at the same time, for however long needed. Step by step you will "breathe away" the cause of any discomfort that stands between you and feeling good.
Perhaps at some point you'll have a flash of memory from early childhood that touches the source of your recurring emotional pain. Perhaps you'll suddenly cry a bit, or even laugh spontaneously, and release your pain. If you use this method devotedly, you'll learn to heal chronic emotional hurt and contraction.
Sometimes after such a healing session, you'll go on about your day; to the extent that you remain aware of your breathing, the healing process will continue apace. At other times, after pausing to focus on breath-assisted emotional recovery, you'll want to continue with the rest of the Focus Phrases, several of which directly augment the emotional healing and recovery process. If you want more specific guidance and insight into this particular process for core emotional healing, please visit TappingDaily.org.
MY FIRST TEACHER
I often talk about my grandfather as my first spiritual teacher, and about the Indian master Krishnamurti, who lived half-time in my hometown and was a voice in my ear from early childhood on. But probably the deepest influence on my life was my grandmother Zora Percy Selby, known to me and all twentyseven of my cousins as Granny. This quiet woman touched my heart very early at levels much deeper than words can communicate.
Life on the Selby Ranch was never boring and was often challenging, as with any family business that involves hundreds of cattle and other livestock and a dozen people working together to survive off the land. There were always financial challenges, injuries, strong differences of opinion on how to proceed in a situation, and so on. Nonetheless, four or five times every day Granny would simply stop whatever she was doing, go out onto the back porch, sit down in her rocking chair, let go of everything, and enjoy a few minutes of pure peace.
My first clear memories are of sitting in Granny's lap as she rocked on that porch, feeling absolutely safe and happy, immersed in her aura of acceptance and love. And throughout each day, she would help soothe people's upset feelings, bring renewed harmony to the household, and gently uplift everyone's spirits.
Although I never heard her speak these particular words, I feel that in her heart Granny was regularly saying to herself: "I choose to enjoy this moment."
As a child imitates its elders, I often encouraged people who were upset to feel better, and for this reason I was nicknamed "Buddy" when I was four. This, I suppose, is how a therapist is born. What amazes me in reflection is that, even in an extreme situation, Granny was able to maintain her ability to enjoy the present moment. Her son developed a fatal disease that slowly and painfully killed him; he lived out his final years in the family ranch house. And even as everyone else sank into a depressed sorrow while Uncle Jim withered away, Granny somehow still went out on the porch regularly, took a deep breath, tuned in to nature all around her, and shifted into a positive feeling in her heart.
What I learned from this example was that, even if our present moment seems terrible, we possess the power to reclaim positive feelings in our hearts. I remember Granny telling us one evening when Jim had fallen asleep that he was feeling bad enough as it was, without our pulling him down further by also feeling bad.
I now work with our local hospice and encourage the volunteer staff to approach dying patients with this same uplifting spirit. And whatever is happening around you, you can begin to explore your own power to say to yourself, "I choose to enjoy this moment," and see what happens.
Every time you exercise this particular mental and emotional muscle, it will become stronger. "I choose to enjoy this moment."
* * *
PLEASURE AS YOUR BIRTHRIGHT
Biologically, human beings tend to have the same basic painpleasure reflexes as other animals. We are programmed by our genes to contract away from pain and suffering, and to move toward pleasure and enjoyment. It's our nature to choose to enjoy each moment. This is how God made us. So how have we ended up focused overmuch on the agony of worrying, rather than focused on the pleasures of joyous living?
One of the main reasons is that human beings have the capacity to imagine all sorts of terrible things happening in the future, unlike other animals, who appear not to have this cognitive capacity. Whenever we're lost in future projections and worrying, we're not present in the here and now and, therefore, can't perceive, respond to, and effectively deal with any dangers that confront us.
In this light, worrying can be a dangerous act. When we're anxious, our minds and bodies tend to dysfunction. As a general rule, worrying makes us contract, become nervous and dizzy, think less clearly, and perform physically at a much lower level.
When we think ourselves into a state of anxiety we actually reduce our ability to take care of ourselves in the present moment.
Another reason we spend so much time worrying is that, for countless generations, all over the world, power-fixated priests have used religion to program and manipulate people via fearbased beliefs. If we believe we're born sinners who will end up in eternal hellfire if we don't hop through a myriad of theological hoops, and if we accept that we must believe just the right things and never make our vengeful God angry, then how can we ever stop worrying about our religious doubts and simply ease up and enjoy the present moment?
I humbly but fervently question all religious theologies that put the fear of the Lord, rather than God's eternal love, into children's hearts.
* * *
As a former minister, I believe we're all created in God's perfect, loving image — we're essentially good by nature, not bad. I also believe it's our spiritual responsibility as well as our freedom to say no to worries, and focus on positive things most of the time, so that we bring more joy and love into the world, not more fear and contraction. What do you believe?
* * *
MEDITATION AS REVOLUTION
Meditation enables us to quiet the attitudes and prejudices that our culture has programmed into us, and to distance ourselves from our fear-based beliefs and political inclinations. Leaders from time immemorial have known that a fearful population is easy to dominate. If meditation can free us from chronic manipulation by military, political, and economic powers, then meditation is indeed a revolutionary act against the fear-based status quo.
Meditation has traditionally been seen as a threat to Christianity because it encourages us to silence theological chatter about right and wrong, and to quiet our ego-based thoughts about religious beliefs, so that we can tune in to the direct spiritual experience of God's living presence in our lives. I remember thinking I was doing good as a young Presbyterian minister by teaching my youth group how to meditate. But I was unexpectedly called before a Holy Commission and kicked out of the Presbyterian community altogether, for experiencing and teaching the supposed heresy that we can know God's will and presence directly, beyond all human thoughts and writings.
Because meditation, by its very nature, incites freedom from established beliefs, it is truly a revolutionary act that can threaten dogmatic established orders.
Revolution is usually spurred by an urgent need for change in the status quo. An honest look at our world situation indicates that a great deal of the violence in the world right now is caused by people of differing religious beliefs who judge and attack one another. Throughout history, opposing theological beliefs have generated hatred and violence.
A cure for this universal and tragic situation will occur when more people choose to regularly quiet their ingrained judgmental thoughts, through the process of meditation, and make a deeper connection with the divine. This meditative action enables us to tap directly into God's uplifting love, which we can then express in the world — that's a real revolution!
Krishnamurti often told us that there is a much-needed, universal revolution coming, one that must of necessity be a psychological revolution, transforming our inherited attitudes in a positive direction. He said:
To bring about peace in the world, there must be a revolution in you and me. Economic revolution without this inward revolution is meaningless. To put an end to sorrow, to hunger, to war, there must be a psychological revolution.
To accomplish this psychological revolution, you must take charge of your own mind, quiet your fear-based thoughts, and focus more often each day on creative, loving, joyful actions. That's what you're learning to do here. I encourage you to hold the first Focus Phrase — "I choose to enjoy this moment" — often in your mind, as a peaceful revolutionary action that will help reduce fear and hostility in the world. When you tune in to joy in your own experience, you boost the overall love, acceptance, and harmony that we so deeply need right now.
On close, honest observation, we see that people who are busy enjoying the present moment tend not to be harsh, in conflict, or violent — and so harmony prevails.
The ego function of the mind is often labeled selfish and fearful, violent and power hungry — and therefore responsible for all our negative personality traits and, by extension, most of the world's woes. Meditative communities in particular often assume that the materialistic ego function must somehow be silenced, disengaged, or even killed, in order for us to progress spiritually.
Excerpted from Expand This Moment by John Selby. Copyright © 2011 John Selby. Excerpted by permission of New World Library.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsIntroduction: Why Expand This Moment?,
1. Enjoy This Moment,
2. Refresh Your Breath Link,
3. Wake Up Your Solar Plexus,
4. Regain Whole-Body Presence,
5. Experience Your Heart,
6. Move beyond Anxiety,
7. Accept Everyone,
8. Love Yourself Unconditionally,
9. Open ... and Receive,
10. Merge with Your Source,
11. Clarify Your Purpose,
12. Embody Courage and Integrity,
For Further Exploration,
About the Author,
Your Daily Uplift Meditation,