“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.” Thich Nhat Hahn
Anchoring in Meditation
The concept of developing an anchor for meditation is not unlike the anchoring of a boat. The anchor is a tool that we carry with us as we travel along that helps hold us gently in place in a safe harbor. In meditation, the anchor helps hold us in place as we settle down to practice being aware of the present moment. The settling is not static, as with a boat, but with the anchor, we are held from wandering too far away from the place we have chosen to rest.
The meditation anchor helps us by giving our attention a focus and draw it again and again to that one point rather than continuing to chase, or ruminate, or be entertained by the feelings and thoughts that the mind loves to dish up for us. Like the puppy that runs around, the mind chases the next impulse too, but with gentle guidance, can be called back to settle here, now. Over time, the practice grows stronger.
The breath is often suggested as a primary anchor, as it is always with us, but it is not the only choice. Sometimes, we might have difficulty breathing or accessing a relaxed breath and it is agitating to try to anchor our attention there. Alternatively, we can use the body, as we do with a body scan, to actually ground us, quite literally, to the place we are standing, sitting or lying down. But that too, can be difficult for some. We can choose other anchors. We can work with any of our senses to anchor our attention, sound, touch, sight, smell or taste. You can see these anchors even leading into their own practice – sound meditations, touching the earth meditations, gazing meditations, mindful eating or aromatherapy meditations.
The practice of developing your own anchor over time helps deepen your practice. The anchor becomes familiar and easier to access and even becomes like a favorite chair, or pillow, or nature sit spot. We know it, it holds us, and we return again and again to the familiarity and comfort it offers. It becomes our aid, helping us to steady our mind, stay present to the moment, and to act from a more centered presence of heart and mind.
“The practice of meditation is not really about establishing inner stillness. The moments of stillness are one of meditation’s byproducts, not the practice itself.”– Erik Walker Wikstrom –
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“If the heart wanders or is distracted, bring it back to the point quite gently…And even if you did nothing during the whole of your hour but bring your heart back, though it went away every time you brought it back, your hour would be very well employed.”St. Francis de Sales