Meditations and reflections

Basic Relaxation

 For this one lying on the floor is actually best. Please try not to fall asleep though! Put your palms down on the floor by your sides. Your feet should be just a few inches apart.

OK. Now just lie still for a few seconds. Let your thoughts gradually quieten down. Without any force at all let your breathing become naturally deep and regular. Now feel the weight of your body on the floor.

Now we're going to very quickly just 'name' some parts of the body in turn. Centre your consciousness briefly on each of these parts as you name them to yourself. Toes, feet, ankles, calves, knees, thoughs, groin, midriff, chest, shoulders, hands, arms, neck and head. Be aware of any areas where there is particular tension. OK? Now I'll just explain the next bit before we do it.

What we're going to do is spend five seconds making our whole bodies as tense as we possibly can. Then we're going to release all of that tension in one go, pushing it out and up and away from us. But before we do this, on the count of three take a long deep breath in. One, two, three -now tense as many muscles in your body as you possibly can, and when I count three push the air in your lungs out at the same time as you let go of every last little bit of that tension. One, two, three -push away the stress!

Now concentrate on your breathing. Breathing in through the nose and out through the nose is best here, but find some other way if that is uncomfortable for you. Let your breaths be deep, and let your mind be still. Just watch the way you take in the air and how it fills your lungs. Hold the air in your lungs for just for a second or two before you breathe out, and wait for just a second or two before you breathe in again. Just watch your breath for thirty seconds or so. If you get distracted or your mind wanders, then gently bring it back.

Now try and maintain the sense that by letting the body relax, and by allowing the mind to be still, so you are letting all parts of the system become more integrated. By simply being calm, and aware, you are letting bodymind become more balanced. More efficient. More energised. Be calm in this attitude for another minute or so.

Now gradually bring yourself out of the meditation, slowly bringing your attention back to where you are.

by Richard Ebbs

Link: Meditation

Tradition: Buddhism

· meditation · relaxation · daily · spiritual practice · Richard Ebbs

Dzogchen Mindfulness Meditation

 This meditation is taught in a number of traditions in Tibetan Buddhism. Like Zazen, the practise is essentially very simple indeed, but, as you will discover if you do it consistently in the right spirit for some time, this is actually a very powerful meditation technique. It is said that this technique helps develop self-awareness, non-attachment and a feel for what Buddhists call 'Mind'.

Note that after you have done this meditation a few times, you can do it looking directly ahead or you can even do it during every moment when you are active in some activity or activities during the day.


Sit in a posture that feels comfortable, with a reasonably straight back. (See Posture.) Your hands should rest on your knees, with your fingers drooping down over your kneecaps. Keep your eyes open, and look at a spot in front of you: your eyes should look downwards at an angle of around 45 degrees.

As a way into the meditation, concentrate on your breathing. Allow it to become naturally deep and regular, feeling each breath as it passes into and out of your body, energising the whole system.

Let your thoughts subside. Let your feelings be calm. You are looking at one spot in particular, but you don't need to analyse what you it is that you are seeing. On the other hand, try not to let your eyes go 'fuzzy': just let them rest on that one place without effort.

When you find yourself thinking, following one thought to the next in the way that we normally do, then don't repress the thought, and don't indulge it. Just gently bring yourself back to being centred somehow in what might be called 'the observer' in you, that part of you that is able to stand back from your thoughts, and watch as they happen.

When you find yourself experiencing feelings, following one feeling to the next in the way that we normally do, then don't repress any of those feelings, and don't indulge them either. Gently bring yourself back to being centred somehow in 'the observer', so that you can stand back from your feelings, and watch them happening.

What we are aiming to do here is reserve certain amounts of the 'energy of our awareness' for different things. So when you find your awareness temporarily taken over by thoughts, or by feelings, or by sensory input from your eyes and so on, then gently 'bring it back' trying not to let more than 25% of your 'awareness-energy' be used up in this way. Reserve 25% of your awareness-energy for 'the observer'. The remaining 50% of the energy of your consciousness should be used to maintain, if possible, a sense of the void that, according to Mahayana Buddhist philosophy, underlies all apparent phenomena: the void from which all apparent phenomena arise, and into which all apparent phenomena subside from moment to moment. All things change in the long term, and all things change even in the short term. Nothing has any real substance. Thoughts, feelings, sense-perceptions and even the sense of 'I' that we all have are illusory. At base, there is sunyata, or voidness.

It's also important to remember at this time that we don't want to get too attached to the idea of 'the observer': 25% is about right: the fact that we reserve 50% of our consciousness for some kind of awareness of sunyata should underline the fact that even the perspective gained from observing ourselves closely can be limited insofar as it may be a limited, or dualistic, perspective.

Be fully present in the moment, here and now.

If a thought arises, you could say 'there is a thought'. If a feeling arises, you could say 'there is a feeling'. If looking arises, you could say 'there is looking'. If hearing arises, you could say 'there is hearing'. And gently bring yourself back.

You are sense-perceptions, thoughts and feelings, and you are the observer. You are also the ground of being, the Buddha-mind in which all these things have their basis. Be aware of the gaps between your thoughts, the gaps between your feelings, the gaps between different sense-perceptions.

Remain in this state of mindfulness.

When you are ready, prepare to come out of the meditation.

Make an 'intention', explicit to yourself, by way of sealing the energy of this meditation in your being, so that it can be used in ways that you feel good about. (See Opening And Closing A Meditation.)

In your own time, come out of the meditation.

by Richard Ebbs

Link: Meditation

Tradition: Buddhism

· meditation · Dzogchen · daily · spiritual practice · Richard Ebbs · mindfulness


I invite you to close your eyes, and think of a time that you tried something new. Maybe the first time you rode a bike, or your first kiss, or the first time you tried a type of food that you were convinced you didnt like. Maybe it was the first time you tried a new spiritual practice: meditation, or visualisation, or prayer, or elaborate ritual. Maybe it was when you did something scary, like capsizing a canoe or doing a parachute jump. Try to remember how it felt before you did it. Were you scared, resisting, apprehensive, hesitant? Was there someone there to help you get over your fear? What did they do? Were they supportive and kind, or did they push you into it being cruel to be kind? Try to remember how it felt while you were doing it. When did fear change to pleasure? If it did what kind of pleasure was it? Quiet satisfaction or wild exhilaration? Now try to remember how it felt afterwards. Did you want to do it again? Did it make you more willing to try new things? Did it change how you felt about yourself? [pause] Hold the memory of these feelings in your mind. When you are ready, open your eyes and return to the present and your companions here.

by Yvonne Aburrow

Link: Dance of the elements

Tradition: Unitarian

· meditation · Unitarian · daily · spiritual practice · Yvonne Aburrow · change · experiment · experience

The body

I invite you to take one breath for the earth beneath our feet, one for the sky above us, and one for the sea that surrounds us. Be aware of your body, and release any tension in your feet ... legs ... belly ... chest ... arms ... neck ... and head. Now look within yourself  what images arise? ... [pause] ...The body contains darkness  the velvet darkness of the flesh, the nourishing darkness of the earth. The body contains water  water that answers to the call of the Moon, water that nourishes life. The body contains earth  the chalk-white bones that hold us up. The body contains air  the air that we breathe. The body contains fire  the spark of life, the warmth of the flesh, the pulse of the blood. And the body contains light  the spark of the Divine in every heart, the light of reason in every mind. The body holds our memories  memories of happiness and sadness, memories that make us who we are. The body gives rise to our dreams  dreams of freedom and peace, dreams of love and passion. The body holds our spirit, our consciousness, our inner life. The body fixes us in time and place, allowing us to experience the present moment in all its fullness. Let us be present now  present to our bodies, present to each other, present to this precious moment. [long pause] Let us be present now. [music]

by Yvonne Aburrow

Link: Dance of the elements

Tradition: Unitarian

· meditation · Unitarian · daily · spiritual practice · Yvonne Aburrow · body

The Divine

What is the Divine? Is it the still small voice that whispers to your conscience in the watches of the night? ... Is it love, that leaps like a spark from heart to heart? ... Is it inspiration, stirring the mind to insight and poetry? ... Is it power and glory and might? ... Or is it humility and integrity and wonder? ... Is it compassion, that pities the poor and friendless and alone? ... Is it the power of creativity, that continuously creates all existence? ... Is it the power that sustains the universe? & Is it the source of all that is? ... Is it the beauty and grandeur of nature? & Is it eternally one and the same, unchanging, ceaseless and beyond all thought? & Is it constantly changing and evolving, growing like a tree into the vastness of time? ... Is it the void, the nothingness and silence beyond existence, where we can let our minds rest? ... It may be all or none of these things, but we feel its touch when we let our minds rest in the ultimate ground of our being, the silence and awe and wonder. Let us go within to our own silent contemplation of the Divine ...

by Yvonne Aburrow

Link: Dance of the elements

Tradition: Unitarian

· meditation · Unitarian · daily · spiritual practice · Yvonne Aburrow · Divine · God · Goddess · Spirit of Life · Ground of All Being

The sacred

I invite you to close your eyes, and to choose something  a place, a concept, an object, a person  that you regard as sacred. What is the quality in it that evokes the sacred for you? What values or virtues does it represent? Are they values or virtues that find an echo within you? Is the sacredness an inherent quality of it? Or does it shine through it, as if its source is elsewhere? Just focus for a while on your sacred place, concept, thing or person. Allow its virtue to shine for you; hear its inner music; smell its perfume. [long pause] Now let the place, concept, thing or person fade from your mind and just focus on the virtue itself, and recognise its reflection in your own heart.

by Yvonne Aburrow

Link: Dance of the elements

Tradition: Unitarian

· meditation · Unitarian · daily · spiritual practice · Yvonne Aburrow · sacred · holy

Zazen meditation

 Zazen is the classic Zen meditation. (Perhaps deceptively) sometimes described as 'sitting quietly doing nothing'. A common practise among Japanese Zen Buddhist monks and nuns.


It's traditional to sit in the lotus or half-lotus posture here, (see Posture) but if this is uncomfortable for you then sit in a straight-backed chair.

Your hands should rest in the lap, with the both hands palm uppermost, and the left hand resting on the right hand. The tips of the thumbs should be lightly touching each other.

Make sure your spine is straight. Push your lower back forward slightly and expand your chest while making sure your head is upright. Gently move from side to side until you find the balance point that is most comfortable.

Keep your eyes open just a tiny bit ('neither open nor closed') and look at the floor a few feet in front of you. Breathe in and out through your nose, keeping your mouth shut and the tongue resting gently against the roof of the mouth.

Take a few deep breaths, exhaling all of the air in your lungs each time, and then let your breathing find it's own natural deep rhythym, without force of any kind.

Watch the breath. When the mind wanders, gently bring it back again to that simple awareness. Be still. Relax. Be easy on yourself. Don't judge yourself harshly. Just keep the attention on your breathing, and when the mind wanders, just gently bring it back again.

Be here now. Engage fully in the moment. Breathe, and be fully, vitally present.

When you choose to come out of the meditation, first come back to a full sense of being engaged in all of your body. Then gently move your your upper body around in small arcs before stretching your legs out. Don't stand up too soon if your legs are stiff!

by Richard Ebbs

Link: Meditation

Tradition: Buddhism

· meditation · relaxation · daily · spiritual practice · Richard Ebbs · Zazen · sitting