Dr. Duckworth’s Studies and Practice (Part 1)
Being in the moment
In modern terminology, it is sometimes called “Mindful Meditation” or “Mindfulness Meditation”; it is also termed “One-pointedness of Mind Meditation.” People often think of Hinduism, Buddhism or Zen Buddhism when they speak of meditation, but this practice is not about religion, though it definitely is about the ‘A’ dimension, the realm of Spirit. The realm of stress-free, relaxed, peacefulness that comes when the mind is quiet; when the mind is focused on one thought or better still, no thought.
Research has suggested that meditation may improve mood, decrease stress, and boost immune function. It has long been shown to lower heart rate, blood pressure and calm the spirit.
What is One Pointedness of Mind Meditation?
One Pointedness of Mind is a form of meditation that essentially involves focusing the mind in the present; in Shinto terminology, Naka-ima (now-here). Naka-ima is to be aware of your thoughts and actions in the present, without judging yourself.
How to Practice One-Pointed Meditation
1. Find a quiet and comfortable place. Sit in a chair or on the floor with your head, neck and back straight but not stiff. Sitting on the floor can be with legs crossed (tailor style), legs folded onto themselves (Lotus or half-lotus position) or legs bend under yourself (Seiza). Whether on a chair or the floor, try to position yourself so that the crown of your head, your shoulders, hips and tip of your tailbone are aligned.
2. Put aside all thoughts of the past and the future and stay in the present. This is the core result for which we are striving. This will take time. For me, initially, it took a great deal of time. Be patient. If you have expectations of results, you are not being present; you are in the future.
3. Be aware of your breathing, focus on the sensation of air moving in and out of your body as you breathe. Feel your chest or belly rise and fall; feel the air enter your nostrils and leave your mouth. Pay attention to each breath, how each breath changes and is different; yet don’t think about the sameness or differences. Just breathe.
4. Watch every thought come and go, whether it is a worrisome thought, fear, anxiety, fantasy or just wondering if the light in the refrigerator is on. When thoughts appear, don't ignore or suppress them, just note them and let them go. Stay calm and use your breathing as an anchor.
5. When you find yourself getting carried away by your thoughts, observe where your mind went, without judging, and simply return to your breathing. Don’t be hard on yourself when this happens; it’s just stuff. As my beloved teacher, Baba Ram Dass, once told me, “To chastise oneself for worldliness is just more worldliness.”
6. As the ending time arrives, just sit for a minute or two and let your mind reactivate, becoming aware of where you are. Get up gradually.
Focusing on breath is a technique for quieting the brain/mind – the thinking self. When you first begin this work, the inclination is to think about not thinking and while you can see the paradox of such a head trip, none-the-less, that is what you will do. There is almost a fear that if you are not thinking, you’ll die or go crazy or something. However, when you stop thinking incessantly, you will begin to truly live or become sane. You will relax.
There are variations of this practice. You can focus on your breath; you can focus on your chest and with each inhalation note “rising” (the chest) and “falling” with each exhalation; with your eyes open, focus on the flame of a single burning candle in front of you; each time you find yourself thinking, resettle attention on the flame. The goal is to be in the moment – Naka-ima. The result is relaxation.