Mental Noting Meditation
Mental noting is a mindfulness meditation practice.
In this meditation Travis Eliot guides you to establish concentration with the breath and gently noting any thoughts, feelings or sensations arising. Noting these temporary experiences allows us to be more attuned to the present moment experience and expanding the scope of ones awareness.
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[The following is the full transcript of this episode of “The Be Ultimate Podcast.” Please note that this is direct from Travis speaking unscripted and unedited.]
Welcome to the Mental Noting meditation.
In this practice we’re going to focus on becoming aware of thoughts, our sensations, our feelings as they arise, and then being able to note it or to label.
So let’s begin.
Find a comfortable seated position, cross-legged, kneeling, whatever feels right for you on this particular day. And as you get situated, go ahead and sit up in a nice tall dignified way, taking your seat halfway between heaven and earth.
As you’re ready, allow the eyes to close, or picking a point down on the floor in front of you with a soft, relaxed gaze.
As you begin to shift the attention inward, take a few deep breaths in and out through your nose, allowing the gravity of your breath to pull you into the present, into the now. As you take a couple of more of these long deep breaths, just allowing everything outside of that breath to go out of focus, to disappear, like you’re taking a little vacation, a little retreat, here in the midst of your day.
And then nice and easily, resting your attention on that anchor of the breath just like we did within our breath meditation, feeling the breath moving in and out through the nose, becoming aware of the texture and the quality of the breath.
Perhaps the breath feels cool as it enters through the nose and then perhaps feels warmer as it exits out the nose. Some days our breath naturally feels fluid, like a wave, and other days, depending on our mental or emotional states, our breath might feel a little bit more choppy or suppressed.
Without really changing anything at all, let that breath in its own natural organic way just be there. And your mind and your breath just fusing together becoming one.
Now within this mental noting practice, we’ll continue to use the breath as an anchor, but periodically, it’s very normal for that mind to begin to drift away from the path of the breath. So any time this becomes your experience, you’ll very gently and very kindly note whatever that thought is. So if the mind starts thinking about items to cross off on the to-do list, very quietly, internally you could repeat the word planning. Planning. And then you return your attention back to that anchor of the breath.
Sometimes you may notice how the mind reverts back into something that happened earlier today, earlier in the week, and you could put a general label around it, past…past. Or future…future.
Sometimes the mind becomes distracted, but you’re not exactly sure what kind of label to put on it, and you could even internally say, “Don’t know.” “Don’t know.”
And then again, returning the focus back to the breath.
In addition to being able to note and label thoughts, sometimes it might take the form of more of a feeling or emotional quality. Sometimes we think about a conversation that we’ve had and that could bring up joy…joy.
Or perhaps even anger…anger.
So you can also note these feelings that arise as well just like you would your thoughts. And each time you come back to the breath, it’s like returning back home, back to center.
It doesn’t matter how often the mind drifts away. You could spend the whole entire practice chasing after the mind, doing your mental noting.
All that matters is that you showed up and you continue to move through the practice, continuing to train the mind, like an athlete moving through their drills, a musician moving through their scales. You’re moving through these powerful ancient techniques as a way to continue to cultivate your mindfulness.
Sometimes it can be helpful if the mind really starts to drift away to take a couple of deeper breaths in and out through the nose as if your breath can draw the mind back, remembering that sometimes animating the breath gives something deeper for our mind to sink its teeth into.
At certain points, you may even notice sensations within the body, and then you can label that as well, silently whispering, aching…aching.”
And then bringing the attention back to the breath. Take a last couple of minutes here.
From here, coming back into this sensation of your body, sitting on your cushion or your seats, and then as you’re ready, slowly open the eyes back up.
So this practice of mental noting where we note the thoughts and feelings are considered to be some of the pillars of mindfulness.
Suzuki Roshi said, “When you realize that everything changes and you find your composure within it, then you find yourself in nirvana.”
So the whole practice is to not become entangled within the thoughts, the feelings, and sensations but to have that freedom from a place of perspective to see it.
As you move into the rest of your day and the rest of your flow, continue to be that witness from the place of spaciousness just noticing how all this stuff is changing, flowing, appearing and disappearing, and you can watch it without getting caught up with it or ensnared within the web with those thoughts. And that is where your freedom lies.
Thank you for practicing, and we look forward to seeing you next time.
Produced by Jason Reim
Music by Ryan Richko