How (and why) to “Note” and “Label” when you meditate

note and label

How (and why) to “Note” and “Label” when you meditate

To meditate when you move, follow the “Steps to Make Any Move a Meditation.,” Of these, the fourth step is to “Place Your Awareness on the Object of Meditation.”

You can also note and label as you meditate. Noting and labeling helps the mind settle and regain focus if thoughts become intrusive. It’s another way to develop concentration and increase focus and attention.

Noting and Labeling

“Note” a thought or sensation by intentionally acknowledging it as you experience it. Then, if you choose, give it a label by either speaking aloud or mentally saying a word “label.”

When you note and label, you are not thinking. Rather, you observe and thumbtack the experience with a single, neutral word. Speak the label aloud to yourself, or say it under your breath in real time as sensations occur.

Here are some examples:

• Walking: “lift, shift, place.”
• Running: “left, left, left.”
• Weight lifting: “lift, up, pull.”
• Dance: “place, lift, twirl.”

Use a word label to describe a sensation, e.g. “hot,” “pulsing,” or “throbbing.” Be aware of any judgment that arises with the description. Don’t add a color as a descriptor unless you physically see that color, not if you just imagine it. If you do see a color, label it as “green,” “blue,” “yellow,” etc.

Only note and label what you experience, not what you imagine. Take care not to get too caught up in labeling, especially if your movement requires a series of quick movements. A speed skater won’t be able to label each move.

Gauge the intensity of your concentration by how frequently you label. If the labels are quick, your mind might be jumping around. Use noting and labels to help your consciousness sink into the object of meditation.

Start by labeling during a slower movement. During quick movement, you might not need to label so long as you can maintain your concentration.

Also, notice if labeling leads you into thinking. Are you more aware of the moment? If so, the labels are effective. Labeling should lead you into the moment, not  away from it. If you begin to worry whether you are noting and labeling properly, note that!


Take a walk. As you walk, direct your attention to whatever body part is most prominent. Let’s say it’s your left foot. As you walk, keep your attention on the  sensations of that foot.

When your mind wanders, gently bring it back to the feeling of that foot, but add a label: foot. Each time your left foot hits the ground, either silently or quietly say “foot.” Continue for whatever interval of time you like.

I have included more than twenty exercises in the book Make Every Move a Meditation.

This excerpt is from Make Every Move a Meditation by Nita Sweeney which is available now through Amazon and Mango Media.