Extrospective Meditation Techniques

INTRODUCTION

Mindfulness meditation for me, is aiming towards complete focus and presence on something outside of the mind, whilst having high awareness of the mind’s state and thoughts without passing judgement. This can be achieved through focussing introspectively on your internal state, typically through the body or breath, or extrospectively by focussing on the surrounding environment.

However well you master your internal space, a life without understanding and connection with the external world would be unfulfilling and confusing. Being able to shift the focus towards recognising visuals, sounds, smells, even people’ expressions and the energy around you is vitally important. Hence one must master both internal and external environments, and be able to shift seamlessly between them depending on the task. This article will identify two mindful meditation techniques to grow awareness and connection with external environments.

WALKING MEDITATION

By focussing extrospectively, it is possible to get out of mind and be observant of the world around you. This usually involves paying attention to one or more of your senses intensely.

Often taught by Buddhists, walking meditation intensely focuses on slow, careful, repeating movements of your feet and body. Find yourself a clear 5–10 metres of straight ground in front of you, and a reference point at either end so you know where to turn easily. Then start with your arms behind you and your posture straight.

Next, with each left step forward say the word “stepping left” and each right step say the word “stepping right” either out loud or in your mind, carefully placing each foot one foot left length in front of the other, like walking along a wide beam in front of you. Have your eyes softly gaze 2–3 metres in front of you, not focussed on anything in particular. You repeat this process until your end marker, then say “stopping” as you bring both feet together. Once mindfully at a standstill, say “turning” as you make a 180 degree turn to face back the other way. Then repeat.

The key is to commit all of your consciousness to the movements, the placing of your feet and how it feels, the sounds your feet make, all whilst holding a relaxed, strong posture. Your eyes and mind will get distracted naturally along the way, but as soon as you realise just stop and say “thinking” or “feeling” and continue once your mind is restful again. Below I will link a short, simple video demonstrating this technique.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_IFvablc6EI

BONUS VARIATION: WALKING MEDIATION IN A FOREST

I find walking meditation most enjoyable in a space where I am almost guaranteed that no one is around, and in some form of woods or forest. Once your mind is calm, continue your walking meditation, whilst engaging in the surrounding visuals and sounds. Notice the different patterns and colours of the leaves and trunks, the sounds and movement of animals around you, the sounds of the foliage under foot. I find this puts me into a deep state of calm and can be very helpful to consciously engage in and interpret our surroundings.

MINDFUL LISTENING

A second extrospective technique is to use mindful listening. I often do this in the early stages of a meditation session for a few minutes, or when walking in the forest to be intensely present. However, this method can either intensify you’re presence towards particular sounds or allow you to respectfully decline to focus on others. This is particularly beneficial if you are someone who is easily distracted such as myself. You can learn how to acknowledge but not derive emotional reaction from sounds.

Start with a soft gaze, 2–3 metres ahead of you where possible. Begin to listen to the sounds around you, focussing on one at a time. The key is to not judge the sound as good or bad, as annoying or enjoyable, but just be aware of each of the sounds individually around you. These can be birds, road noise, the boiler or even your own breathing or movement.

If this is the beginning of a meditation session, systematically processing through each one is a great way to get an awareness of what’s going on around you, so that it does not distract you for the rest of the session. Or, as a longer practice, you can use the sounds as your point of focus to derive presence from. Try to challenge yourself by listening to a sound /noise that you might recognise you find unpleasant. Try not to judge, see it just sound passing throiugh you. Be mindful of the emotions it presents. Be kind to yourself and observe the emotions as a third party looking in. Personally through this practice I have begin to understand and disassociate with emotions such as anger and frustration, and see how they arise in the mind and body.

SUMMARY

This concludes 3 articles on meditation, starting with the basics and setup, moving to introspective and extrospective techniques, and how they can both benefit you in terms of mood, health, and connection with the world around you. I hope you found this information useful, and if you haven’t already, please check out the other articles and leave a comment below.

Thank you for your time reading and Namaste 🙏

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