Meditation     Stress Reduction     Corporate Wellness

"After starting a meditation practice numerous times, I found it helpful to have Larissa's direction in a group setting to be more successful in staying with the practice."

- C.S.

Learn to Meditate

The following instructions on meditation can be instrumental in starting a daily practice. The sitting meditation uses the breath as the object of meditation and is a way to help focus the mind. This is a building block for beginners. The body scan helps to bring a greater awareness of sensations and may be helpful in working with physical discomfort. The Lovingkindness practice is valuable in cultivating that natural quality of the heart for ourselves and then extending it to others.

Introduction to Sitting Meditation with Focus on the Breath

It is helpful to make some preparations before starting a meditation session. Meditating at a regular time of day is most helpful to establishing the practice. Find a place that is comfortable and undisturbed. Turn off the phone, TV, radio, etc. You may choose to sit on the floor with cushions to support your posture or sit on a chair. Start meditating for 15 minutes at a time using a timer. Once a week, you can increase the time by 5 minutes.

Begin by setting down anything in your lap. Find a comfortable posture, relaxed, spine erect, hands folded in your lap or resting on the tops of your legs. Feet uncrossed, flat on floor. Eyes closed or lower your gaze. Just noticing what it’s like to be in the present moment.

Scan the body for obvious signs of tension: back of the neck, the jaw, the shoulders, the hands, feel the pressure of the back of the chair, the seat, feet touching the floor. Expand your awareness to include sounds, outside the room as well as inside.

Become aware that all this time you’ve been breathing or rather, breathing has been happening. Notice where you feel the breath most vividly; perhaps it’s at the abdomen as it rises and falls with each in-breath and each out-breath. Or it may be at  the chest, expanding and contracting. Or you may notice it most clearly at the tip of the nostrils with the cool air entering and the warmer air exiting. Choose one area where you feel the breath most clearly and make that area the center of attention. Not trying to change it, just noticing the breath the way it is (smooth, rapid, deep, constricted). There is no right or wrong way to breathe in mindfulness meditation.

You may notice that the mind has wandered. That’s OK, that’s what minds do. Just notice where it went and firmly but gently come back to the breath, this one. Noting this breath has never happened before  and will never happen again. Just notice all the sensations associated with breathing air in and out.

If you find you are lost in thought, it’s a wonderful moment of waking up. Just notice where the mind went and return to the next breath. There is no need to judge the wandering mind.

Notice if can follow the breath through an entire cycle from the pause just before it begins, as the air enters, at the point of stillness, then as the air changes direction and exits the body.

This practice strengthens your ability to become mindful in the present moment. You are repeatedly and non-judgmentally returning and resting with the breath.

The Body Scan Meditation

This is a meditation practice that helps train the mind by directing it to areas of the physical body.

Lie down comfortably on a mat on the floor using any cushions to support you. Since this posture may be conducive to sleeping, set the intention to “fall awake”. Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose. Feel your abdomen move outwards as your diaphragm contracts and draws air into your lungs.

Just as you can “place your mind” in the abdomen and feel the  breathing, it is also possible to “place your mind” in the left foot.

Feel your left foot. Feel the sensations. Simply become aware of them, not trying to make any special sensations just noticing their presence or absence in this region of the body. Breathing into the area. Scan your left ankle, moving to the lower leg, the shin bone, the calf muscle. Accept any tension or discomfort that may be present. Scan slowly, up through the knee and  thigh and hip area. Breathing.

If thoughts appear, that's fine. Gently come back to your breath, and shift awareness over to your right foot. Slowly inhale while moving your attention to your right foot.

Scan for any sensation in your right foot... the toes…the ankle…calf... shin bone….the knee…the thigh... Simply accept all sensations and feel what is present. Relax...breathe.

Now focus on your abdomen. Feel it rising as you breathe in. Sinking into the mat as you exhale. Notice the pelvis, the bony structures which house the internal organs. Moving to the lower back, feel the back of the rib cage as it moves with each breath.

Come around to the chest area. Notice the lungs expanding and contracting…..the heart nestled in between them. Your heart may slow down. This is normal. Remain aware of your stomach, your breath... up and down. Become aware of any sensations.

Now follow the same procedure with your left hand and arm as you did with your leg. You may clench your fist at first to really direct your awareness to your left hand…the palm…the fingers….fingernails. Breathe.

Now scan up along the length of your arm, to your elbow, feeling the inner and outer part…..the armpit, shoulder. Breathe, noticing all the sensations in this region of the body. If your mind should wander, just notice where it went, let go and return to this area of the body. Then over to the right shoulder…. down your right arm to your elbow and wrist. Notice if there is  any pulsation or absence of it. Move your awareness to the right hand…..fingers, knuckles…palm. Remain there…..breathe….sense and scan.

Come back up to your chest. Continue scanning up along your neck and face...the jaw...mouth...lips...teeth...the gums. Move to the cheeks...eyes...eyelids…. brows…temple…forehead. To the scalp…hair. Feel how the back of your head rests against the floor. Notice the ears...outer and inner ear….breathe and scan.

Now let go of your focus of all body parts. Breathe. Feel how everything is connected, resting gently on the floor. Just breathe, let any sensation come to you. Accept it as a part of you. Return to your breathing.

Just breathe for a minute and feel your body as a whole. Then start making small movements with your feet and hands. Breathe. Sit up slowly.

Lovingkindness (metta) Meditation

Traditional phrases to use

May you be filled with lovingkindness.
May you be safe from inner and outer harm.
May you be healthy in body and mind to the extent you are able.
May you be happy.
May you be peaceful.
May you be free.

or an alternative

May you be filled with lovingkindness.
May you be safe from inner and outer harm.
May you have a calm, clear mind and a peaceful loving heart.
May you be physically strong, healthy and vital to the extent that you are able.
May you experience love, joy, wonder and wisdom in this life just as it is.

Typically, these phrases are offered first to oneself, then to a teacher or benefactor, next to a loved one, then a “neutral” person (someone you see often but don’t really know, e.g., check-out person in grocery store, mail carrier, etc.). Then you can extend these wishes to people in the surrounding community, the world, other creatures that live in our rivers and oceans, the forests. Finally, closing with a “difficult” person in your life (at first, please choose someone with whom you have just a little difficulty; eventually, you can move up to someone with whom you have greater difficulty).

Still Point


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Present in Every Moment: Waking Up to Love and Compassion in Our Lives,
A Seven Day Mindfulness Meditation Retreat

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Wallingford, PA