There We Are: A “Bookend” Finishing Routine for Meditation

Greg Sazima MD (author of Practical Mindfulness) says a little structure at the end of a sitting can really help.

Image by Pixabay / Edited with Prisma

Source: Image by Pixabay / Edited with Prisma

KEY POINTS

  • For new meditators and their teachers in health care and education, some beginning and ending structure is helpful.
  • As with the “Here-We-Go” routine, we can “bookend” a sitting with “There-We-Are.” A nod to pulling up, noting belonging, and a final check.
  • This “bookend” especially helps reinforce and identify with our mindful, observational capacity.

It’s back to basic tactical work in getting a meditation practice going, whether for ourselves or in easing the way for patients and students. A few weeks back, I went on about a “starter routine” to help set some optimal conditions: Here — We — Go (HWG) . To briefly review, these are a familiar trio of reminders to attend to three common complications of starting practice:

  • Beginning without being settled in place
  • Feeling lonely and disconnected
  • Working without some basic intention

Each step of that starter routine is accompanied by a big belly (relaxation) breath to reinforce a sense of settling in place, of belonging to a grand coalition of folks working on cultivating calm and adaptation, near and far, and then of bringing to mind the target(s) for the moment, be it the breath, the heartbeat, an emotion or thought, a series or sequence of those things, or whatever arises. It sets a spare but defined structure to start the practice; a kind of initial bookend for the story that will subsequently lay itself out.

Bookends tend to come in pairs, lest there be a domino effect, in theory, at the other end of the collection. In this case, we may bookend a three-wheeze starting routine with a finishing trio of ideas:

There — We — Are, TWA

Especially in the solitary practicing that most of us do, it can be easy to spring up off the cushion or out of the chair as the timer goes off, leaving whatever just happened in the dust. As with the initial routine, this TWA wrap-up helps “land the plane” (heh) with a mindful noting of the end of a session. It’s brief directed deliberation to pull up from the focus of the last moment of observation, back to that starting, landscape view of experience; then to reiterate a shared goal of peace and adaptation; and a final, brief screen of one’s state, especially attending to anything novel or memorable in the exercise just done to contemplate, write down, think about later.

So:

  • Big breath one: There. Pull up from the observation of the breath and note your broader surroundings in place and time.
  • Big breath two: We. As we finish the sitting, note those silent partners, practicing out there somewhere. A quick reminder that we all belong to that team, we all aspire to feel calmer, more connected, more aware.
  • Last breath: Are. Before you pop up off the chair or cushion, Take a last little check of how you are—body, heart, head, a brief snapshot courtesy of capacity of awareness; and what resonates from the practice now finished. This is also a moment to sit back in, identify with, and thereby cultivate that “mind’s eye” experience, what I nickname meta in Practical Mindfulness. It’s the aspect of our experience that stays put, that is a reliable “home” we come back to when lost in the ever-changing stuff of the moment after moment of experience.

In helping new meditators with emerging practices, I find that offering just a little directed routine, HWG and then TWA, provide some helpful structure for the admittedly “whatever happens, that’s what you get… just watch, get lost, come back” story in between. Over time, the “bookends” often become intuitive, internalized, just the way we start and finish.

There you are; I hope that helps.

References

Sazima MD, G.(2021) Practical Mindfulness: A Physician’s No-Nonsense Guide to Meditation for Beginners. Miami, FL:Mango Publishing.


Practical Mindfulness

A Physician’s No-Nonsense Guide to Meditation for Beginners

Training exercises that work. Practical Mindfulness approaches mindfulness and meditation from a hands-on, how-to, irreverent perspective–appealing directly to smart readers curious about meditation. By applying Dr. Sazima’s training routines, learn to spend more time in real engagement with the world. Cultivate a deeper appreciation of experiences, from the everyday to the extraordinary, and live your life more fully, wisely, and joyfully.