In the following series of videos and written guidelines, you’ll find concise instructions for teaching each of the meditation practices we’ve worked through together.
Introduction + How to Use this Module
- Centering Breathing
- Mindfulness of Breathing (3 Versions)
- Performance Mindset Routine
- Loving-kindness Meditation
- Mindfulness in Everyday Life
- Begin in a seated, standing, or reclining position. Any body position that allows comfortable and full breathing works well. Helpful cues include: dignified, upright, flexible, and at ease.
- Take a full breath in through the nose and exhale through the mouth with a sighing sound. Repeat 1-2 times.
- Close the eyes, or feel free to leave them open with a soft gaze on the floor or a wall in front of you (or the ceiling if you are lying down).
- Allow the mouth to close and the breath to flow in and out through the nose. For anyone with congestion or conditions that prevent breathing through the nose, they may breathe through a nearly-closed mouth (slightly open lips or pursed lips).
- As comfortable, begin to deepen the breath, aiming for steady and slow breathing.
- Without becoming light-headed or pushing your limits, continue to deepen the breath. If light-headed, aim for slow breaths, rather than full. If light-headedness continues, end the practice.
- Feel the body move. The lungs move and we feel the belly rise and fall, feel the chest expand and contract, maybe even feel shoulders lift slightly and release. *Remember: we breathe into our lungs, not our bellies.
- After 5 rounds (1 round = 1 inhale + 1 exhale) of Centering Breathing, allow the breath to return to normal, not breathing in any special way.
- Blink the eyes open and notice how you feel.
Mindfulness of Breathing (3 Versions)
- Find a comfortable seated or standing position.
- There are several ways to practice and teach Mindfulness of Breathing. The following outlines the 3 most accessible (and useful) methods of using this practice.
- In all versions: begin by bringing awareness to the breath. Eyes may be closed or open with a soft gaze on the floor or a wall in front of you. Breath moves in and out through the nose in no special way — simply let it be as it is.
- Version 1: to develop concentration and focus.
- As you breathe naturally, introduce a count such as: inhale, exhale, 1; inhale, exhale 2; inhale, exhale, 3; and so on until you reach 10. When you reach 10, return to 1. Repeat this cycle 3 times.
- If you forget where you are, begin again.
- If you find your attention divided between thoughts and the counting/breath, see if you can let go of the thoughts and simply notice the breath. I like to count at the moment that I switch from exhale to inhale (for strings teachers, this is like the moment of a bow change). You can also do the opposite, counting at the moment you switch from inhale to exhale. It can be very interesting to play with this and notice the difference.
- Version 2: similar to Version 1, but with a different count.
- Inhale, 49; exhale, 48; inhale 47; and so on until you reach 20. Count at the moment that you switch from inhale to exhale and exhale to inhale. Dullness often comes in at the end of the exhale, so bring special attention to the end of each exhale if you find your thoughts wandering.
- When you get to 20, slow the count by half: inhale, exhale, 20; inhale, exhale, 19; inhale, exhale 18; and so on until you reach 0. Then allow the counting to subside and simply observe the breath. Or feel free to repeat, going back to 49.
- As before, if you forget where you are, no worries — simply return to 49 and begin again — there are no awards for getting to 0 without losing count. When the mind wanders, pause to notice, then gently bring it back to the breath and the count. If you remember where you are, continue there.
- Version 3: to build concentration and general awareness.
- Simply observe the sensation of inhale and exhale, without a count.
- Feel the exchange of warm and cool air as it moves past your nostrils: cool on inhale and warm on exhale.
- Feel the body rising and falling.
- Feel the full-body experience of breathing.
Performance Mindset Routine
- Select a goal. This could be a music performance, an audition, a job interview, a conference presentation, a training session that you lead…any event during which you would like to perform your best.
- Develop your performance “Highlight Reel.” Just like a sports-related highlight reel, this includes 3-5 positive performance memories from your past that allow you to reinforce the idea that you can perform at a high level and achieve your performance goals.
Performance Mindset Routine:
- Find a comfortable seated or standing position and allow the eyes to close.
- Centering Breathing: complete 3-5 rounds of Centering Breathing at your own pace. Feel the body settle.
- Internally, play your “Highlight Reel” — your past performance visualization. Sit with each memory for 15 seconds to 1 minute, then move on to the next one. Allow yourself to feel any emotion attached to that memory.
- Future Performance Visualization: bring to mind the goal performance that you selected. Visualize the day of that performance going as well as possible: waking up rested, prepared, and excited; going to the performance building and warming up; centering and preparing to play. Then visualize the performance itself, with special focus on hearing and seeing yourself perform your best.
- Centering Breathing: complete 3-5 more rounds of Centering Breathing.
When teaching this technique, feel free to break it into segments for easier learning. Some students may thrive by focusing on the portions of this practice that are most helpful for them.
- Find a comfortable seated or standing position and allow the eyes to close.
- Bring to mind a person or being for whom you find it easy to feel positive feelings (for example: a pet, a loved one, a child, a student, a mentor).
- With that person or being in mind, internally repeat the phrases: May you be safe. May you be healthy. May you be joyful. May you be free.
- After a few moments, see yourself with that person or being and internally repeat the phrases: May we be safe. May we be healthy. May we be joyful. May we be free.
- When you’re ready, bring to mind a person or group of people for whom you don’t feel particularly strong feelings (for example: people in line at the grocery store, co-workers you don’t know well, people at a local cafe) and internally repeat the phrases: May we be safe. May we be healthy. May we be joyful. May we be free.
- Then, bring to mind a person or group of people for whom you have difficulty feeling positive feelings (for example: an ex-husband/wife/girlfriend/boyfriend, a person who bullies you, someone with different political beliefs) and internally repeat the phrases: May we be safe. May we be healthy. May we be joyful. May we be free.
- Finally, extend out to all beings around the world and internally repeat the phrases: May all beings be safe. May all beings be healthy. May all beings be joyful. May all beings be free.
I highly recommend Sharon Salzberg’s book on loving-kindness if you’d like to learn more.
Mindfulness in Everyday Life
Application of mindfulness principles outside of meditation is how the practice truly comes to life. When working with students, be creative in finding ways to increase present-moment awareness.
Some ideas to try:
- Observe a single breath, as it is naturally.
- Notice one thing that you can sense through sight, sound, touch, smell, or taste. Observe the complexities of that sense. Then notice something else.
- Experience habitual activities (even mundane ones) with full awareness.
- Repeat a single sound with instrument or voice and observe the subtle differences.
These could be used as grounding practices before practicing or performing, awareness exercises for more accurate hearing (especially in music), or games for improving general focus and awareness in the moment.
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