- Contemplative art
There are many approaches to improving intentional attention, including communing with nature, practicing personal silence, creating contemplative art, and engaging in some form of meditation. Many people find that one or more of these activities is effective for them. You may want to try a variety of approaches before you focus on one or two that work especially well for you.
Select from the tabs above to read brief descriptions and find links to some of the practices that people have found effective.
Spring grasses, Northampton, MA, June 2008
Spend time in nature and discover how to relax, focus, and renew your connection to the earth. In general, make it your goal to more often pay attention to nature’s changing conditions—the fresh air, noise, and sunshine of the warmer months, or the crisp, peaceful cold of winter.
Allow yourself to wander in nature, guided by your instincts. Find a private area outdoors where you can sit without being disturbed. Focus on a small spot on the ground, about twelve inches in diameter. Sit silently, looking only at that spot, continually bringing your wandering mind back to what you are seeing there. After about 10 or 15 minutes, broaden your attention to more of your surroundings, trying to maintain the same intensity and attention to detail. Use this solitary time to reflect on your life and your work. Record your reflections on this experience in a mindfulness journal.
*Modified from an article at Contemplative Mind
Creative expression provokes new ways of seeing, understanding ourselves, and relating to one another. As a silent personal practice, art-making allows you to calm and focus your mind while making images that can serve as sources of inspiration and healing.
Begin stimulating your imagination by spending some time collecting images and ideas that you find emotionally stirring. Try looking through personal photographs, books, magazines or newspapers. Spend time outdoors, just watching and listening. Bring a camera and take photographs of sights that move you. Anything, no matter how silly or insignificant you think it may seem to others, is fair game. Your collection is for you alone, so be honest with yourself as you accumulate it. Save your images in a scrapbook, or carry a sketchbook to collect your ideas. These collections serve as “inspiration guides” that you can refer to when you need a little push.
When you’re ready to begin working, collect your art-making materials and set up a nice little space to work in. Sit silently for a few minutes to relax and focus your mind. Ask yourself a question to contemplate such as, “What am I interested in?” or “What moves me?” If nothing comes to mind, you can refer to your notebook or scrapbook for inspiration. Allow your question to grow and change. You may find yourself asking, “What topic do I want to make a picture about?” or “What would I love to look at?” You can also focus on making a work of art for a friend or loved one, and can ask yourself questions such as, “What kind of image would be nice for so-and-so to have?”
As you work with your materials, whether you are drawing, sculpting in clay, or building a paper collage, try to stay aware of how you are feeling and what you are thinking about. You may begin your project with an initial intention or inspiration, like making an image about your childhood or a subject you saw on the news. After some time has passed, you may be thinking about a someone you used to know, or a favorite song. The mind naturally jumps from topic to topic, so try to be aware of how your ideas change while you work. Allow your mind to wander, while simultaneously watching your thinking. For example, if you are painting, you may find that you get into a rhythm where your hand is painting naturally, almost instinctively, while your mind is thinking and observing; it’s like sitting back and watching a show, and can be a very satisfying process of self-discovery.
by Carrie Bergman, Creative Director, Contemplative Mind
SILENCE'S SCINTILLATING DIVINE SPEECH
Joyce Ann Zimmerman, C.PP.S.
We are exposed to a never ceasing pandemonium of sounds that crowd our attention and distract us. We could build ourselves sound-proof cocoons and escape from all this noise, but even then we would not necessarily enjoy the calm of life-filled silence. For, in addition to external silence, we must consider what might be termed personal silence. Personal silence is the practice of profoundly stilling our bodies and focusing our minds.
This kind of stillness can be found in the middle of New York's Grand Central Station. It takes only a fleeting moment of our time. Personal silence is the disciplined luxury of single-mindedness and single-heartedness. It is attentiveness to self and other.
*Modified from an article on the Calvin web site.
Personal silence is not specific to any particular tradition or cultural context; it is practiced throughout the world. It is the practice of intentionally not speaking in order to develop a sense of calm and a keener observation of the outside world. Observing silence can feel awkward at first, especially when you are with a group of people. In time, silence can become a comforting practice that helps cultivate calmness and tranquility.
Here are some ways to incorporate an appreciation of silence into your daily life:
Designate a certain hour or half-hour of the day as a silent time, perhaps in the early morning.
Eat a meal in silence. Silent eating helps you pay closer attention to your food and the changes in your appetite; you may find yourself eating less than usual.
Use silence to help you become more attuned to your environment. Turn off the TV, computer, radio, or other noise-producing devices and listening closely to the ambient sounds that remain. Try to find a sound you’ve never noticed before.
When conversing with others, listen to what they are saying. Often, instead of listening, we are thinking of what to say next.
*Modified from an article at Contemplative Mind.
One way to begin to notice your intentions in the moment, is to use your breath. Begin to develop an awareness of the way your breath enters and leaves your body by focusing your attention on that process. Gently take a slow in-breath feeling it enter your body through your nose and follow it all the way down to your belly. Then follow the out-breath as it begins its journey out, as your belly contracts and all the way to its exit through your nose. Concentrate on feeling the breath all along its path in and out of the body. As often as you can remember to do this during the day, do it. Practice, and soon this attention to breath will become a trigger, calling your attention back to the present moment, in which you have the opportunity to see everything in your experience with clear, non-judgmental intention.
YOGA BREATH MEDITATION
Yoga breath meditation involves sitting comfortably either in a straight-backed chair or cushion on the floor, spine erect, hands resting comfortably on knees/thighs, eyes closed or half closed.
Focus attention on the in and out of the breath as it enters and leaves the body. Do this for 30 minutes. During the 30 minutes, whenever attention wanders from the breath, non-judgmentally bring it back to the breath.
Loving-kindness is unconditional, inclusive love, a love with wisdom. It has no conditions; it does not depend on whether one "deserves" it or not; it is not restricted to friends and family; it extends out from personal categories to include all living beings. There are no expectations of anything in return. This is ideal, pure love, for which everyone has the potential.
Loving kindness meditation begins with a focus on loving ourselves, for unless we have a measure of this unconditional love and acceptance for ourselves, it is difficult to extend it to others. Then we include others who are special to us, and, ultimately, all living things. Gradually, visualization and the meditation phrases blend into the experience of loving kindness.
This is a meditation of care, concern, tenderness, loving kindness, friendship—a feeling of warmth for oneself and others. The practice is the softening of the mind and heart, an opening to deeper and deeper levels of the feeling of kindness, of pure love. Loving kindness is without any desire to possess another. It is not a sentimental feeling of goodwill, not an obligation, but comes from a selfless place. It does not depend on relationships, on how the other person feels about us. The process is one of softening, first breaking down internal barriers, then those between ourselves and others.
Contemplative Mind in Society—provides a number of useful links for educators.
The Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education (ACMHE) is a new initiative of the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society as it continues to support scholarship and research concerning contemplative pedagogy, methodology, learning and knowing in the academy.
Mindfulness in Education Network—All educators interested in mindfulness practice in the classroom are welcome. Offers updates on conferences, books, and articles focusing on mindfulness practice in the classroom.
Mindful Eating—The Center for Mindful Eating.
Summary of Mindfulness Practice— a concise description of Mindfulness Practice.
- Awakening: A Sufi Experience, Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan
- Be Still and Get Going: A Jewish Meditation Practice for Real Life, Rabbi Alan Law
- Coming to Our Senses: Healing the World Through Mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn
- Destructive Emotions: How Can We Overcome Them? A Scientific Dialogue with the Dalai Lama, Narrated by Daniel Goleman
- Living Presence: A Sufi Way to Mindfulness and the Essential Self, Kabir Edmund Helminiski
- Mindfulness, Ellen J. Langer
- The Beginner’s Guide to Insight Meditation, Arinna Weisman and Jean Smith
- The Essentials of Christian Meditation, Laurence Freeman
- The Miracle of Mindfulness, Thich Nhat Hahn
- Train Your Mind Change Your Brain: How a New Science Reveals Our Extraordinary Potential to Transform Ourselves, Sharon Begley
- What is Meditation? Rob Nairn
- Wherever You Go There You Are, Jon Kabat-Zinn
- Word into Silence, John Main