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CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICES

DEVELOPED FOR THE CENTER FOR SYSTEMS AWARENESS' CERTIFICATION PROGRAM FOR COMPASSIONATE SYSTEMS MASTER PRACTITIONERS
TO ACCESS ALL THE PRACTICES FOR THE CERTIFICATION PROGRAM SEE THE OVERVIEW IN JULIE DIAZ UPDATE BEFORE EACH ZOOM-MEETING

Contemplative practice for our Virtual Learning Community (VLC) Call #5:

Guided Meditation: 'Body Awareness Through Meditation' with Hanneli Ågotsdatter 

This meditation is a body scan. One could say it is a guided tour through the body with the aim of cultivating awareness.

We are all born with a bodily, instinctive knowledge of what is needed right now. The first symptoms of stress, for example, occur when we ignore or are pushed out of contact with the body's signals.
Our basic health and wellbeing is directly nourished and encouraged by heightening the level of our awareness of the body.

This meditation begins by activating the main portals to presence. We allow the awareness to drop into the body, we continue by sensing how the body can be supported from gravity by leaning into this force of nature and releasing tension. We enter the portal of breath awareness, by becoming present with the breathing, moment by moment, as we meditate.

This guiding encourages us to cultivate awareness from the toes and feet, through the main body parts, to the face and top of the head, briefly resting by, and activating the attention on, each part.

Concluding with an invitation to let go of the divisions and rest with the wholeness of our physical presence, increased and possibly relaxed through the scan.

Guided Meditation: 'Body Awareness Through Meditation' 

You can stream the meditation online or click here to download.

Contemplative practice for our Virtual Learning Community (VLC) Call #4 with Kimberly Schonert-Reichl and Pippa Rowcliffe:

Guided Meditation: 'Deeper listening' with Hanneli Ågotsdatter 

In this meditation we continue to explore our listening capacity and how we can deepen heartfelt mutual understanding by unfolding an embodied presence in our ways of listening.

We begin, as we often do, by establishing an attitude of basic openness, founded in the awareness of the body and the breath.
In this relaxed openness we explore the possibility of letting go of any unnecessary physical tensions or tightness. We could say that we are mapping the body of the present moment, becoming aware of the territory and the weather. This knowing will influence our ability to listen.

We explore to what degree it is possible to meet ourselves and another with an open mind, and open heart, allowing judgements and evaluations to fade into the background.

In this meditation we are invited to take a moment to reflect on the love and care we offer to others, and to also practice offering this care to ourselves. And if possible, bringing this quality with us into our next encounter.
Kimberly Schonert-Reichl says: “Students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”.

Through deepening our listening practice, we realize that in order to arrive at this unprejudiced state of open and sincere listening, nothing really needs to be done, nothing need be removed or changed. Awareness in its raw form; open, neutral, attentive, compassionate, is an inborn capacity that is waiting to be discovered and cultivated.
Listening, therefore, is neither a performance or an achievement. Rather is it to allow a natural communication process to take place, rooted in the human wish for solidarity and for being seen, met and understood.

In listening – and in this meditation – we relate to distractions. We are not denying them or pushing them away, but rather through acknowledging them we realise their coming and going.
Meeting disturbances with such an attitude – one could say: The practice of listening, inwardly and outwardly, in unjudgemental ways supports us in staying connected to our self and another also in more challenging situations.

Towards the end of this meditation session we focus on the advantages on listening, inwardly and outwardly: When we cultivate and integrate this ability it will unfold for us the unique rhythm, pace and melody that each meeting, each conversation with another has. And to find into the relational gems and the specific possibilities contained as a seed in all meetings between sentient beings.

Guided Meditation: 'Deeper listening' 

You can stream the meditation online or click here to download.

Contemplative practice for our Virtual Learning Community (VLC) Call #3 with Rhonda V. Magee:

Guided Meditation: 'Listening - to the World and to Yourself' with Hanneli Ågotsdatter 

If we're going to have a system that is about thriving for all human beings, we've got to develop the capacity to listen to one another.

— Rhonda V. Magee

 

The practice of listening is to create space for ourself and another in our awareness and potentially also in the heart. In an atmosphere of basic openness.

Therefore, as we listen, our attention is simultaneously directed outwardly and inwardly: Outwardly towards the one we are listening to, to meet the speaker with presence and kindness. Inwardly to ensure that there is space for this communication in our inner space, to ensure authenticity.

This meditation describes and opens this, at once inwardly and outwardly, listening presence:

First, awareness is guided to our body, breath, heart space and presence, to establish the foundation from which we can listen. To bring us home to ourselves.

Then, the meditation points us to the surroundings, bringing attention to the sensory channels, to the flow of information from the outside, to the impulses we continuously receive from our environment.

Hereafter, these two aspects of presence are brought together: From the knowing of our perception of the body, emotions and inner space of awareness, grounded in the openness of our sensory channels, we face the outside world, prepared to listen to what it might bring. And prepared to feel what this modality of open listening might do for ourselves.

At home in ourselves, with an openness towards who and what we meet.

 

Contemplative practices (...) make clear the importance of doing our own personal work. Daily formal and informal mindfulness practices help us become more present to our own thoughts and sensations. We can't get anywhere without recognizing what we each bring into these conversations, and that takes work because we all have blind spots.

— Rhonda V. Magee

Guided Meditation: 'Deeper listening' 

You can stream the meditation online or click here to download.

Contemplative practice for our Virtual Learning Community (VLC) Call #2:

Guided Meditation: 'Breath Awareness' with Hanneli Ågotsdatter

Our breath, on the one hand, is a biological automatism. When we are born, we breathe in for the first time, and we die with the last exhalation. The breath is thus one of the threads connecting all the events of our lives, a thread that takes place spontaneously.

On the other hand, breathing is very sensitive, it changes with the slightest shift in our state of mind, and is thus one of the bridges connecting our physical body to our psyche.

Inhalation and exhalation are also closely linked to our experience of vitality, to the movement of energy in our body.

To raise awareness of the breathing, therefore, is to raise awareness of one of the deepest aspects of our being: how it feels to be alive.

In this meditation, we explore the breath in three steps:

The first step is simply to become aware of the breath as it unfolds moment by moment. To follow the breathing without interfering. Bringing awareness to this process of inhaling and exhaling, thus making it the object of our attention.

The second step is to follow, attentively, the movement of the breath in the body. Becoming aware of how each breath not only involves the lungs, but also touches all internal organs and ultimately the entire body.

In this step we learn how the breath and sense of vitality are closely linked. By bringing attention to the fact that with each inhalation we enliven the body, and at each exhalation we have an opportunity for relaxation, an opportunity that is founded in our nervous system.

In the third step, we engage with the realm of breath in a deeper sense, exploring if a deeper and fuller breathing rhytm is available to us right now. Following the expansion of every inbreath until it naturally ends, and follow the release of the outbreath as long as it last.

For, eventually, to bring some of the presence and breath awareness from this practice into our everyday life and our interaction with others.

Guided Meditation: 'Breath Awareness'

You can stream the meditation online or click here to download.

Contemplative practice for our Virtual Learning Community (VLC) Call #1 with Steen Hildebrandt:

Guided Meditation: 'Anchoring awareness: cultivating loving kindness by shifting our ground of relating' with Hanneli Ågotsdatter

This meditation begins with a call for us to make our motivation clear:

  • Why are we participating in this particular training?
  • Can we clarify for ourselves the motivation for cultivating presence, in relation to ourselves and others through meditation?

When we consider our motivation, the intention with which we sit here, we focus our attention inwards. In this way, the act of becoming familiar with our inner intentions is a portal inward towards a deeper level of ourselves.

Another such portal is the awareness of the body that this guiding then addresses.

A third portal is the awareness of the breath.

These three deep aspects of ourselves:

  • our motivation for cultivating presence and compassion
  • our awareness of the body and
  • our wakefulness in relation to breath

can serve as inner anchors for a more centered presence, both in our interior and exterior world. The deeper we are rooted in the body, the more intimate we connect to our breath and life-intentions, the easier it is to stay in the present without being overwhelmed by the diversity of impulses, input and distractions.

A fourth portal inward, which is at the same time a fourth anchor, a fourth opportunity to be present to our fellow human beings and truly see them as they are, is through the heart feelings, the whole scale of degrees of connectedness from sympathy, empathy and trust to compassion, love and gratitude.

These feelings lay as innate opportunities in all of us, capacities that, when they are contacted consciously, begin to grow and increase. Releasing this inner growth dynamic is the basic intent behind loving-kindness meditations.

In his book "I and Thou," the philosopher Martin Buber contrasts two fundamental stances of relationship - ”I-it” versus ”I-thou” - and argues that this inner growth dynamic starts with becoming aware of the distinction. The two ways of relating can be taken regarding anything, from a rock or a tree to a person. The former stance anchors in seeing the ’other’ as separate from ourselves, a sort of object suspended in time and space. The later knows no such separation, but rather a sacred connectedness whereby ”everything else lives in the light” of the other.

Buber describes human evolution as a movement from being an ego to becoming a person. He writes:

"Egos appear by setting themselves apart from other egos. Persons appear by entering into relation to other persons."

This coming in relation to others presupposes that we meet the other completely, without prejudice. This process of becoming whole, which Buber calls 'concentration and fusion into a whole being', is what we try to approach by cultivating and then bringing together fundamental parts of our being: motivation, body, breath and our basic, innate capacity for kindness and love.

As Buber says: ’All actual life is encounter.’

 

Listen to the meditation, 'Anchoring Awareness: Cultivating Loving Kindness by Shifting our Ground of Relating':

You can stream the meditation online or click here to download.

MEDITATION MODULE 1:

Guided Meditation: 'Arriving', with Hanneli Ågotsdatter

As an introduction to our upcoming time together this meditation is an invitation for all of us to arrive here in the context of the Center for Systems Awareness' Certification Program. Furthermore is it an invitation to arrive at any given moment in our everyday life.

We arrive at this now by, just for a moment, releasing memories that draw us back into the past, and plans that pull us forward towards the future. By, for some minutes, becoming present with ourselves and our surroundings right now.

This can be experienced as unfamiliar. The normally happens is that any phenomenon we become aware of, whether we perceive it in our exterior through our sensory channels, or it manifests within our body and mind, gives rise to a comprehensive inner activity: First, we name the phenomenon: 'It is a butterfly that now landed on the terrace'. Or: 'What I feel now is a slight pain in the knee'.
This naming is often followed by an assessment: 'It's a lovely butterfly. It is probably a Peacocks Eye' Or: 'It's a nuisance pain. What can I do to reduce it?'
After which our awareness may, within a second, be removed miles from the present and instead be caught in long chains of associations.

Through a regular practice we have the opportunity to address this habitual distraction process and to come back to the here and now, by anchoring our awareness and attention in areas of ourselves that can be experienced moment by moment. In this meditation we choose the body and the breath.
The experience of the body and the breathing always takes place in the present. When we bring awareness to the body, we experience how the body feels right now. When we are aware of the breathing, it is the spontaneity and rythm of the breath in this moment we become aware of.

By gently bringing our awareness back to the breathing and the body as they are experienced moment by moment, we train our presence. With this presence it is possible, over time, to experience and meet ourselves and others more fully.

LISTEN TO THE MEDITATION: 'Arriving'

You can stream the meditation online or click here to download.

YOUR MEDITATION INSTRUCTOR:

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Hanneli Ågotsdatter

M.A., psychotherapist, architect and meditation teacher. She is the founder of Kontemplation which offers MBSR-programs and group retreats where mindfulness, presence yoga, compassion and creativity are interwoven into an integrated practice.

She is a part of the organizational group behind The Danish Society for the Promotion of Life Wisdom in Children, an association placing special emphasis on relational competence, teaching the practice of empathy and presence to professionals working with children and young people.

Hanneli is a contemplative faculty member at Center for System Awareness, Boston and she leads Mind and Life Europe's yearly retreats for young scholars.

Hanneli lives at Vækstcenteret, a contemplative community in Denmark under the guidance of founder Jes Bertelsen. She divides her time between counseling, teaching, and long-term individual meditation retreats.