Meditation and mindfulness have their origin in ancient Eastern spiritual practices developed over 2500 years ago. These practices hold today, are accessible and can be done anywhere, anytime.
Meditation is the art of paying attention,
of listening to your heart. Rather than
withdrawing from the world, meditation
can help you enjoy it more fully,
more effectively, and more practically.
Dean Ornish, M.D.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness means paying attention in a
particular way: on purpose, in the present
moment, and non-judgmentally.
Kabat-Zinn writes in Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life that this kind of attention (mindfulness) nurtures greater awareness, clarity, and acceptance of present-moment reality. It wakes us up to the fact that our lives unfold only in moments. If we are not fully present for many of those moments, we may not only miss what is most valuable in our lives but also fail to realize the richness and depth of our possibilities for growth and transformation.
Mindfulness, Kabatt-Zinn asserts, provides a simple but powerful route for getting ourselves unstuck and back into touch with our own wisdom and vitality. It is a way to take charge of the direction and quality of our own lives, including relationships within the family, our relationships to work and to the larger world and planet, and most fundamentally, our relationship with ourself as a person.
Those who have not found their true wealth,
which is radiant joy of Being and the deep,
unshakable peace that comes with it, are
beggars, even if they have great material
wealth. They are looking outside for scraps
of pleasure or fulfillment, for validation,
security, or love, while they have a
treasure within that not only includes
all those things but is infinitely greater
than anything the world can offer.
Benefits of Meditation and Mindfulness
The benefits of developing mindfulness and a meditation practice are enormous.
I integrate meditation, guided meditation and visualization into individual sessions.
Researchers have found using EEG’s on meditating subjects that meditation can help to:
- Decrease cardiac output, heart rate and respiration
- Control your autonomic nervous system
Increase strength and duration of beneficial alpha and
theta brain waves.
Studies have also revealed that meditation and mindfulness
- Increase personal and professional resilence
- Reduce the negative effects of stress and stress-related symptoms
- Reduce physical sensations from pain
- Break addictive behavior
- Assist with a variety of conditions including anxiety and depression
In stillness, we can experience peace. Pain can be eased. Fear can be dissolved. Inner wisdom can be revealed. Creativity can increase. Intuition becomes clear. Great joy can be experienced.
Types of Meditation
There are many types of meditation encompassing at least four approaches — through the intellect, emotion, body and action.
Directing thought to transcend the self is the approach of the intellect.
Meditation that brings emotions to the surface and enhance our ability to love ourselves and others is the approach through emotion.
Hatha Yoga, T’ai Chi, and Sufi Dancing, for instance, are approaches to meditation through the body.
Learning how “to be” while performing a skill such as martial arts is the approach or path of action.
Within these approaches, meditation can be structured or unstructured, passive or active.
Breath counting would be structured while the experience itself being the meditation would be unstructured meditation.
Meditation that invites the practitioner to let go of thoughts occurring in the mind and to stay in the present moment is passive and can include sitting, laying and walking meditation.
Dialoguing for guidance is an active meditation. Other types of active meditation include creative visualization and guided imagery. Guided imagery used therapeutically can help access repressed emotions and parts of the self.
Meditation Support Materials
Books and CD’s by Jon Kabat-Zinn
Jon Kabat-Zinn — Wherever You Go, There You Are
Jon Kabat-Zinn — Full Catastrophe Living, Using Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain and Illness
Most of the time, we are lost in the past or
carried away by the future. When we are
mindful, deeply in touch with the present
moment, our understanding of what is going
on deepens, and we begin to be filled with
acceptance, joy, peace, and love.
Thich Nhat Hanh