Category Archives: Meditation

Mindfulness for your Heart!

Over the years of defining mindfulness for people just being introduced to the term and the practice of meditation, I have noticed a change in my explanations.  As my own understanding of mindfulness has deepened and changed me, my instructions have taken a decidedly softer and kinder portrayal of this way of being and sensing the world.  I always start with the most popular definition of mindfulness by Jon Kabat-Zinn:  “mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”  From there, though, I find it helpful to expand on the “nonjudgmentally” part.  If you aren’t judging what are you doing?  My experience is that I’m allowing, I’m accepting, I’m open, and I’m loving. Continue reading

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Mindfulness Helps You Sit With Pain (Emotional and Physical)

It’s the second week of the mindfulness-based stress reduction program and some people are wondering why on earth I am asking them to do the body scan every day (a formal mindfulness exercise that asks people to systematically bring attention to their body from head to toe).  All kinds of comments are made after we do it at the beginning of class. On one hand, people say things like “It’s kind of boring,” “My mind wanders all over the place,” “The more I do it the less attention I pay to it (and I don’t like the recording).” On the other hand, people indicate “It’s really relaxing,” “I’ve noticed how it’s changed the way I relate to other things in my life,” “I’m able to release the tension in my body,” and “I am more able to cope with my pain.”

Our lives are filled with things that we like and things that we don’t like.  We feel pain (both emotional and physical) and we feel joy. Mindfulness teaches us to treat all our experiences with equal care and compassion and kindness.  Meeting life head-on in each moment teaches us that we can be with whatever is present without reacting. And if reacting is happening, we notice that with curiosity and openness. Continue reading

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Meditation makes us all winners!


But Maryam Fakhradeen from the University of Missouri-Kansas City won the book “Commit to Sit: Tools for Cultivating a Meditation Practice” by posting her comment about doing the three minute meditation.  She said “Helped a LOT; I knew I was tense but didn’t realize I was THAT tense until I was doing the exercise.  Love learning new mindfulness exercises & tips!”

It’s amazing what you notice when you simply bring your attention to your body, your feelings, and your thoughts.  When you check in with yourself, you might find tension or sadness or anger or happiness or peace.  Things could feel pleasant or unpleasant or there might not be much of a feeling at all.  Mindfulness is the tool that helps us to pay attention with curiosity and kindness so that no matter what we find when we look, we can be with it without reactivity.  Hey, then you can relax. No need to struggle with what’s happening.  We are just looking in to see what’s there.

Take a few breaths and, voila!  In a moment or two something else is happening and we can relax around that too.  Mindfulness helps us to sit beside our experiences as well as be in the middle of our experiences at the same time.  This ability to abide with our lives can come in real handy, because, as you know, life is filled with ups-and-downs coming at us constantly and mindfulness lets us ride the waves.

Listening to NPR this morning, the benefits of meditation practice are even being picked up on by business schools around the country—from Harvard to  Michigan’s Ross School of Business.  The bottom line is that “slowing down” (taking a three minute breathing break) helps them be more effective.  Listen to the whole story here. 

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Taking the Mystery out of Meditation

Meditation is like taking a good friend to a coffee shop and getting to know her better, only without the coffee and the good friend is you.   Just sit down with yourself and bring your open, curious attention to what is going on with you.  Notice what thoughts are passing through your mind, what feelings are present, and what your body feels like.

If you spent even a teeny portion of the time you spend getting to know others in getting to know yourself, it would be extraordinarily beneficial.  Research indicates the benefits of meditation range from alleviation or decrease in a broad range of physical symptoms to a decrease in anxiety and depression.  However, a lot of people go through their entire lives without doing it. 

Getting to know yourself and living a life of presence doesn’t have to happen through meditation practice, but it is one of the best ways I’ve discovered. 

You might have been reading this blog for some time now and never taken the time to “taste mindfulness” for yourself.  So, I’m offering a challenge to help you get started.

Just sit, right where you are.  Don’t move (except to settle the body into a relaxed, yet alert posture.  Click here and practice a three minute meditation.  If you will comment below on what you noticed by September 11, I’ll put your name in a drawing for a book called “Commit to Sit: Tools for Cultivating a Meditation Practice.”

As Jon Kabat-Zinn says, when you sit down to meditate, don’t even think “I am meditating.”   “Just be awake, with no trying, no agenda, no ideas even about what it should look like or feel like or where your attention should be.”   Do this three minute meditation every day or try some of the longer meditations found on the Audio/Video link above.  Find out, firsthand, the benefits of meditation.

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

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Watering the Flowers and Trees as Meditation Practice

When you think about meditation, you might think about someone serenely sitting on her cushion with her eyes closed, soft music in the background, beautiful flowers on an altar, burning incense, etc.   While this may be true, there are many other things that can be considered meditation. 

According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, in his book Arriving at Your Own Door, “meditation is really about paying attention, and the only way in which we can pay attention is through our senses, all of them, including the mind. “

If you think about it then, ANYTHING can be meditation.   The key is to be present, pay attention, and experience the present moment with the senses of taste, touch, smell, sound, sight, and thought.  So, you can be aware of all (or part) of theses senses when you are sitting in meditation but you can also take this practice OFF THE CUSHION. 

In fact, in a recent article I just read on Diets in Review, they were mentioning the fact that since here is a growing body of evidence that suggests that sitting for long periods of time is pretty unhealthy for the body, you might want to try more active types of meditation practice, particularly if you are sedentary during the day.  Read full article here.  Not that I want to discourage anyone from sitting meditation practice (as I think it is a pretty healthy thing to do).  But, I do want to suggest that you take a broader perspective about meditation practice.

My own meditation practice this summer has included watering the flower beds.  In case you haven’t noticed, we are having an incredible drought this summer, and I have spent hours watering to try to keep my flowers and trees alive.  Instead of being frustrated by what is happening, I have brought this activity into the realm of meditation practice.  The time I spend watering is time I get to spend outside in nature, being grateful for the beauty of the flowers, listening to all the little bugs and birds, breathing in fresh air (something we don’t get enough of these days), feeling the warmth of the sun against my skin, and smelling the scents of the mulch and flowers.   Occasionally I even have an erratic sprinkler that gets me pretty wet which is just delightful. 

Other types of active meditation are described in the article above and include walking or running meditation,  cleaning or yard work meditation, and dancing meditation.  I would also include yoga,  swimming, biking, hiking, and climbing to name a few.  All you have to do is be present and take it all in.  Do these types of activities on a regular basis by yourself and strengthen your ability to be present for your life, as well as get some much needed movement into your day.

 

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