Frequently asked questions:
• Which Series should I start with?
Most people start with Series 1, and especially with the body scan CD, as described in Full Catastrophe Living. However, all the meditations (and mindful yoga) sequences in Series 1 are 45 minutes long. If you think it would be congenial to begin with shorter meditations, then Series 2 or Series 3 might be more practical at first. In particular, people find the Mountain and Lake meditations on Series 2 to be very easy doors into the practice. Each is twenty minutes long. There are also ten and thirty minute guided meditations on the Series 2 CDs. They were made to accompany the book Wherever You Go, There You Are, and have the same simple tone as that book. Series 3 is best if you wish to be more in touch with how rich and healing your senses really are; and if you wish to cultivate lovingkindness and/or choiceless awareness, both very powerful meditation practices.
• Every time I try to do the body scan, I fall asleep. What should I do?
This is a very common experience when working with all lying down meditations, and particularly with the body scan, especially at first. It happens even though the whole purpose of the body scan, and all other meditations, is to "fall awake," in other words, to be present and aware, no matter what is happening. The reasons for falling asleep are many. For one, almost all of us are sleep deprived and so we naturally tend to fall asleep when we lie down and get comfortable. After all, that is what we do (hopefully) every night when we get into bed. It takes some practice to learn to be aware of the fork in the road we come to, that moment where one path leads to sleep, the other to wakefulness, and chose the latter. But with practice, you can discern such moments, and choose awareness over sleepiness. To slant things in favor of wakefulness, before practicing, you can splash cold water on your face, or do whatever is necessary to make sure you are ready to stay awake in the body scan. Of course, time of day can make a big difference, so perhaps early in the morning would be better than late at night, depending on your biological clock and schedule. You can also practice with your eyes open. That is a wonderful way to practice with the body scan and other forms of meditation. It also helps if you specifically formulate the intention to stay awake at the very start, and then be alert to any feelings of sleepiness when they start to set in. That awareness alone will allow you to chose wakefulness and experience the whole of the body scan, from the toes of the left foot, all the way up through the top of your head. But for some people, it may take weeks of persevering, and that in itself is a good thing. The benefits of finally learning to dwell in awareness within the body are very much worth the effort and discipline.
Mindfulness is never about doing something perfectly, because it is not about doing or accomplishing at all. It is about allowing things to be as they are, resting in awareness, and then, taking appropriate action when called for. Silence, deep listening, and non-doing are often very appropriate responses in particularly trying moments -- not a turning away at all, but an opening toward things with clarity and good will, even toward ourselves. Out of that awareness, trustworthy skillful responses and actions can arise naturally, and surprise us with their creativity.