The STOP technique comes from the Mindfulness Bases Stress Reduction program and is a useful and effective way to bring you back to your breath and into presence. When you are struggling with keeping presence in a difficult situation, or if you would like to explore more deeply an emotion, sensation or thought that is interfering with your meditation practice, this technique can provide a structure for support to guide you back to presence and clarity. It can be utilized anywhere and only takes a minute or two to practice.
S - Stop and take Stock
(when identifying the feelings or sensation, keep it impersonal. Just label the feeling by itself. Do not label as "I am mad" Rather just "mad". Not "I am tense", but "tense". Keeping "I" out of the label, keeps you from identifying with the feeling or sensation. You are not the feeling or sensation, they are just moving through you.)
These observations are of what you are experiencing right that moment. Acknowledge and take note of your experience, even if the experience is unpleasant.
T - Take a Breath
Direct your attention to your breath. Follow your in-breath and out-breath, one after the other. Breathing is our connection to presence. Breathing doesn't happen in the past or the future, but right in the present moment. Use your breath as an anchor to help pull you in to a place of awareness and calm.
O - Open and Observe
Begin to expand your awareness around you and outside your breathing. Begin by sensing your body, your posture, your expression, your whole body. Then go further out to your surroundings, what is occurring right now? What do you see? hear? smell? Try as best as you are able to keep your attention this open awareness for a few moments.
P - Proceed
Now you are present, you are able to sense how things are right now, rather than simple react in the usual habitual manner. Observe with curiosity and opens. This pause allows space to open up so you can act or simply be in a way that promotes awareness and healing. Then you can proceed to practice sitting meditation or to what is needed at that moment.
Write the steps of the STOP technique on an index card or put it into your smart phone or tablet. Keep it available to you, especially in places where Aversion tends to strike you most often. Refer to STOP as often as you can and eventually the process will become automatic, replacing the negative habit energy with a positive one.
A blog by the Lotus Heart Zen Meditation and Study Group members