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Week 4

Sensory experience can be restful or active. Last week we studied how to meditate on restful states. This week and the next we'll cover active sensory experience. When we're paying attention to active sensory experience that changes gradually we called it “flow”, the topic of this week. When it changes abruptly is called “gone”, a topic for week 5.


Focus on Flow

Focus on flow includes five techniques: see flow, hear flow, feel flow, all flow, expansion and contraction.

1. See Flow: Track visual flow. You can do it with eyes open or closed. With your eyes closed, mental images may change, or the grayscale blank may vibrate. With your eyes open but defocused, the physical light coming in might change. Your perception of colour and form may seem wavy. If your attention moves away from visual flow, gently come back to visual flow. You can use the label “See Flow” to remain present.

Use the track below as a chronometer (no guidance).


2. Hear Flow: Bring your attention to auditory flow. E.g., a subtle undercurrent of vibration in talk space. You may want to use the label “Hear Flow” whenever you are aware of auditory flow. Gently return to auditory flow if your mind wanders.  

Use the track below as a chronometer (no guidance).


3. Feel Flow: Track flow in your body experience. E.g., the breath, a tingling sensation, runner’s high, an invigorating shower, etc. Use the label “Feel Flow”.


4. All Flow: Let your attention broadly float between see flow, hear flow, and feel flow. If two or all three of these are active at the same moment, just choose one to note. Use the label “All Flow” if your mind wanders. 

The sound track below may be a source of inspiration for flow and a chronometer (no guidance). 


Exclusive vs. Inclusive Emphasis

So far we have been using what Shinzen calls "exclusive emphasis" (i.e., if several sensory modalities are activated at the same moment, we choose one to note. Another option that may be of benefit is "inclusive emphasis". In this option, the meditator notes all the modalities that are activated in a given moment. There are 7 possibilities:

  • See

  • Hear

  • Feel

  • See Hear

  • See Feel

  • Hear Feel

  • All

When I use inclusive emphasis, I like to note using mental images instead of words. I imagine 3 lights. In the example above, the lights represent See Hear. 

If you're feeling adventurous, you can experiment with two "traffic lights", one for See/Hear/Feel In, and the other for See/Hear/Feel Out. 


5. Expansion and Contraction: pay attention to expansion (i.e., increase in intensity, frequency, or size of a sensory experience) and contraction (i.e., decrease in intensity, frequency, or size). If you move your attention from your right finger to the entire body, your concentration expanded whereas your clarity contracted. Use the labels “Expansion” and “Contraction”.  



Formal practice in stillness: practice one of the above techniques (see flow, hear flow, feel flow, all flow, expansion and contraction) for at least 20 minutes per day. 

Formal practice in motion: Do walking meditation while paying attention to flow. If your mind wanders, gently return your attention to flow. Do this for at least 10 minutes per day.

Informal practice: Choose between micro-hits and background practice.   

If you want the Certificate of Completion, please complete the Practice Log and send it to us with the subject line "UM week 4".

Did you enjoy flow this week? Let's move on to week 5


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