Dr. Barb: I’ve talked about mindfulness often as a way to reduce stress and anxiety that can interfere not only with intimacy but with our overall health and happiness. That’s why we’re providing this series of resources approaching mindfulness from different points of view. We hope you’re finding them helpful as you navigate this season. In this practice, we introduce another practice that is shown to have positive health benefits: gratitude.
Jessica Zambri is a musician, writer and meditation teacher. She has cultivated a rich community in performing, writing, and producing music. She came to meditation through her yoga practice, deepening her meditation practice with continuing education with organizations including New York Insight Meditation, Brown University, and the International Training Cycle of Breathe in Reconciliation.
Jessica also works with Jennifer Ciarimboli, whom I’ve spoken with before and who founded Studio BE. In this time when many of us are isolated and missing our local resources, I’d like you to be aware that Studio BE has just launched a virtual studio for movement, meditation, and mindful living. That means you can take classes—either live or from their online library—in your own home, on your own time, when you need a break or encouragement. Classes range in length from three minutes to several hours; you’ll find topics including yoga and meditation, in addition to down-to-earth wisdom on eating, sleep, close relationships, professional development, and more. Studio BE is offering Fullness of Midlife listeners a free 14-day trial. Use MIDDLESEXMD, in all caps, as the “invite code” when you log in at StudioBEMindfulness.com.
Now here’s our resource for cultivating gratitude.
Jessica: Hi. This is Jessica. Welcome to the practice. In this meditation, we’ll cultivate mindfulness and gratitude. Whenever you’re feeling ready, find a comfortable position. One where you’re feeling supported, alert, not too rigid or stiff. You may wish to explore sitting on a cushion or a chair, lying down, standing, or maybe walking.
Take some time to see what feels comfortable for you, knowing that the body is in process, always changing. So if you need to adjust the posture or move, feel free to do so throughout the meditation.
This practice is just a suggestion. So I encourage you to really listen to what might be needed, moment to moment for you, tapping into your innate wisdom. And as you’re feeling ready, you can close the eyes, and if you prefer to have them open, you may wish to just find a point in front of you to softly rest the gaze.
We begin the practice by acknowledging that the body is here. Present. Just knowing this. To the degree that it is comfortable for you, begin to feel into that knowing, perhaps of getting a sense of where the body meets the ground, or the surfaces below you, noticing any sensations here. Perhaps there’s some tingling, vibration, pressure, maybe there’s a temperature in these contact points, a warmth or a coolness. Just getting a sense here of the body being held. Held by the surfaces supporting the body, the ground, and ultimately the earth.
Feel the body’s breathing, so just knowing that for a moment, and to the degree that it feels comfortable, exploring that. Getting a sense of the motion of this breath in the body, rising and falling, in the chest or the belly. Sensing into the cooling breath coming into the nose, and the warming breath leaving the nose.
I invite you to choose a place to rest the attention. Perhaps with the knowing that the body is here and breathing. Just that knowing is enough. You may wish to choose a place in the body where you are feeling a sense of ease, of balance, resting the attention there. Maybe with the sensations of the breath. Just taking a moment to choose an anchor. A place to recenter the attention, because of course the mind will wander. That’s not a mistake; it’s very natural.
And when we notice this we can become aware without rushing, returning back to an anchor of choice. Grounding in the present moment.
So maybe you have an anchor that you’d like to use for the practice, and if not, you may wish to just use the phrases: The body is here. The body is breathing. Perhaps these phrases will be helpful to ground the attention.
So just taking a moment here to check in. How is it right now? How’s the body, the mind, the heart? No need to answer; just the checking in is enough. An act of kindness. Check in, just like you would with a good friend. You may notice thoughts, emotions, sensations in the body, sounds, coming and going.
In this mindfulness practice, we cultivate the capacity to be with changing nature, one moment at a time, perhaps one breath at a time, knowing you’re here, and here. And just like mindfulness, we can practice gratitude.
I invite you now to bring your attention to one thing you are grateful for. Maybe just that you are breathing, or that you’ve set aside time in your day to meditate. It may be something like access to clean air or water. Just take some time here to see what shows up naturally. If you are noticing resistance or judgement, that’s okay. There’s really no need to force this. Take your time knowing that just this willingness to touch into gratitude, second by second, is enough.
This is our practice. Taking a moment here to establish mindfulness does open curious awareness that is not critical. It’s an act of kindness, an offering that you give yourself and ultimately everyone around you. Is it possible to be grateful for that in this moment?
I invite you now to bring the attention to the whole body in whatever posture you are in. Just getting a sense of this body, here, held by the surfaces below you, the ground, the earth, acknowledging that the body is always in the present moment. And as you are feeling ready and comfortable, getting a sense of the space around the body. You’ll be noticing the way the air feels against the body. Is there a temperature present?
If you’d like, you can bring some motion to the body. Take some time here, without rushing, to begin to connect to the space around you, getting a sense of where you are at right now, the environment you are in.
And to close this meditation, just taking a moment if you’d like to, to acknowledge the presence of generosity and courage. Because it takes both generosity and courage to be with what’s here, moment to moment, to see things clearly as they are, and to meet the moment without judgment.
So thank you for your presence, and for your practice.
Dr. Barb DePree, M.D., has been a gynecologist and women’s health provider for almost 30 years and a menopause care specialist for the past ten. Read more about and from her here.