Choosing to use mindfulness in the form of formal meditation or in each moment of our day can improve our healing and create longer lasting well being.
Mindfulness meditation has gained in popularity over recent years but it comes from a very old tradition, and is found in many different cultures. Recent publications and use of electronic media have made it more accessible to those of us that don’t live in mountain caves or monasteries. Pioneers in the field have studied the impact of mindfulness meditation on certain health conditions both physical and mental. Current resources are abundant and take the form of retreat centers open to the public, books, videos, and audio recordings that make the possibility of meditation open to almost anyone.
My favorite advice about meditation comes from a day of sitting with Jack Kornfield. He said, and I’m paraphrasing, stopping your thoughts is no more possible than stopping your skin from sweating. It is your skin’s job to sweat and it is your mind’s job to think. The key to mindfulness mediation is not in controlling your mind and creating complete emptiness. The key is in the practice of non-attachment to your thoughts.
When I am sitting in meditation focusing on my breathing and start thinking about what I will cook for dinner, I can notice “I’m thinking about dinner and not my breath” and choose to return my mind back to my breath. Or I can think “yes, dinner, and in order to cook dinner I have to go to the store, and I wonder if there is enough gas left in the car or if I have to stop for gas and the last time I went to that market they only had half of what I needed, which market would be more efficient? and I wonder if my husband will be home in time for dinner because if he’s not going to be I’d have more time for meditating and if I could go to just one store and not get gas that would give me more time too…” and suddenly all my meditation time is gone because I attached to the story of planning, instead of just noticing, “there goes my mind thinking and planning again, let me check in with my breath.”
Meditating is a practice. Most of us choose this practice because we have a goal – more control over our thoughts, our worry, our sense of equanimity and peace. Most of us become determined with our practice because of suffering. It is a gentle kindness that the tool of meditation is there for us whenever we choose it and for whatever reason.
But one more caution – any tool we use to fix ourselves must should be examined for the underlying messaging we are giving ourselves that we are not ok right now. This inherent paradox lies in all of our efforts to improve our lives and our selves. But meditation offers us the right here, right now, truth of being ok, right here, right now… just noticing how remarkable it is that I don’t have to decide to make my heart pump and my lungs inhale, to just be here.
Here are some great tools and teachers:
Mindfulness Meditation and Tools for Decreasing Stress
- Jon Kabat Zinn has written many great books and has a series of fabulous meditation CD’s. The best book for living with pain or chronic illness is called “Full Catastrophe Living.” The Meditation CD’s offer a range of 10minutes to 45 minutes of guided meditation. It is accessible and soothing entry into the world of meditation.
- Jack Kornfield has also written many great books on meditation. He is one of the founders of Spirit Rock a Vipassana Meditation center in Marin, CA. Two of my favorite books are “A Path with Heart,” and ” After the Ecstasy the Laundry.”
- Emotional Brain Training is a behavior modification system designed to allow you to move beyond the stress triggers which cause you to choose escape rather than living in the moment. It is somewhat complex but offers excellent tools for moving out of stress and into joy.