By Gordon Harris, Adapted by Trenna Ahlstrom
In our modern society, we can all feel overwhelmed at times. Teens are no exception. They may feel like they are stuck in a bad situation that will never change or that they will never be able to achieve high ideals or live up to others expectations. These feeling can lead us to act out and engage in risky or harmful behaviors. Noting Meditation is one of many methods RedCliff Ascent uses to help students with negative thoughts and feelings that may arise in our day-to-day life.
Noting Meditation is the final element of Mindfulness Practice use at RedCliff Ascent. Combined with Loving-Kindness Meditation and Square Breathing, these mindfulness tools can help us gain greater awareness of and mastery over ourselves.
Like the other mindfulness practices, Noting Meditation can be useful for anyone including parents. Assistant Field Director Gordon Harris says this meditation comes from the ancient practice of Vipassana or Insight practice. He says that this practice is very old and likely dates from the time of the Buddha.
Noting Meditation is a method of training our present moment awareness by labeling sensations, thoughts, and emotions. Because noting practice encourages people to notice that their thoughts and feelings are not lasting, regularly practicing Noting Meditation helps people to see that change is fundamental to life. It develops awareness of one’s self, acceptance of what is and cultivates greater equanimity amid the dynamic rise and fall of everyday life.
Noting Meditation involves training yourself to pay attention. It requires an awareness of your five senses and your inner thoughts. For example, you would label a sensation (1) sight, (2) sound, (3) feeling or touch, (4) taste, (5) scent, or (6) thought. When you pay attention to what is happening in your mind, almost every experience can be labeled in one of these six ways.
This is the foundational shape of Noting Meditation. By noting each experience, it is identified as something outside yourself. The “self” is that which is aware of the sensations, experiences and thoughts that arise. This helps to develop the awareness and acceptance of present moment experience. This can also be used as a tool for students to use at any point to re-ground themselves in the present moment when their minds are pulled into the past (anger and resentment) or future (fear and anxiety).
Before you begin, find a comfortable space and posture, and begin by taking a few deep breaths. Then, take a few moments to just be. If you need to make any adjustments to your posture, now is the time to do so. Allow yourself to settle into a comfortable position. Then begin by focusing on the breath and noting the sensations that arise. Don’t try to control your breathing, just allow it to come naturally as you note the experiences and sensations that flow into the present moment. Now allow your focus to spread out from the breath to the rest of the body and mind and note each sensation and thought as they come to pass...
For example, your experiences may be: Hearing--, seeing--, pressure--, stretching--, calmness, imagining thought, curiosity, uncertainty, itching--, remembering thought, anticipation, joy, breathing--, hearing…
Finally, challenge yourself to be curious, and explore your own mind, body, and emotions. The practice will likely become easy quickly. Each person intuitively knows what “label” to place on their experiences, thoughts, and emotions.
As Yoda, the great Jedi Master would say, “Do or do not. There is no try.” There is no wrong way to practice Noting Meditation.
Parents of troubled teens may also feel that they are stuck in an impossible, unchangeable situation. That is not true. All situations change. Encouraging your teen to practice mindfulness, and practice mindfulness yourself as part of your self-care. This is one of the many small things that you can do to change your situation for the better.