Mindfulness & Meditation...What's All The Fuss?
Mindfulness seems to be the current buzz word. You hear it everywhere you go these days. You can scarcely watch television, listen to the radio, or pick up a magazine without hearing about, or reading about Mindfulness or it's companion...Meditation. But why? What's the big deal?
I mean people have been meditating for years, well at least in other cultures,(primarily Eastern) right? So why the seemingly sudden interest in, and surge in popularity of these two disciplines in Western cultures?
Some of the earliest written records of meditation (Dhyana), come from the Hindu traditions of Vedantism around 1500 BCE. The Vedas discuss the meditative traditions of ancient India. Around the 6th to 5th centuries BCE, other forms of meditation developed in Taoist China and Buddhist India.
Traditionally, meditation was thought to be a practice reserved for monks, holy men, sages, Yogis, Bhuddas and the like. But this is no longer the case. People are waking up, "awakening" and seeking answers for the deep questions that lie within all of us..."What is my purpose?" "Why am I here?" "What is the meaning of life" "How can I achieve true happiness and contentment?" For millenia, humanity has sought answers to such questions, and always looked outside of themselves for them. In recent years, as a global "awakening" has begun to happen, people have begun to realize that the answers we seek to these and so many other questions, lie within.
Deep within our consciousness, we know the answers, and they differ for all of us. Meditation allows us to go within, to access a level of higher intelligence, to connect with the ancient, and All That Is, or ever will be for that matter, to find the answers we have all sought for eons. We are waking up to the fact that all the knowledge, all the power, all the wisdom of the Universe, lies within each one of us and always has.
Meditation is penetrating mainstream western culture. In academia, meditation is now a legitimate object of investigation by psychologists, neuroscientists, philosophers, psychoanalysts, psychotherapists, psychiatrists, and other health professionals. This intellectual interest runs in parallel with pragmatic concerns. For example, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) and mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) are therapies which use meditation and have been found to be effective treatments for depression, anxiety, stress, and disease-related emotional distress. It was not so long ago when meditation and yoga centers were strange to see in western cities. Now they are found in all major urban metropolises.
And there is the other buzz word-Mindfulness. What is Mindfulness? How does one practice Mindfulness? For that matter, why would one? The answers are as many and as varied as the practitioners of Mindfulness themselves.
Many therapies—not to mention the advice we get from friends and our grandmother—encourage us to change the story we’re telling ourselves when that story causes us anxiety, depression, or other challenging mental states. In the recovery world it’s called “stinkin’ thinkin’,” the kind of self-talk that tells us we are no good or things are not going to work out or that the person we are about to go talk to is an absolute ogre. The stories we tell ourselves in our head do frame our experience, and they can form a kind of script for our lives, so the advice to “flip the script,” to change the story we’re telling ourselves, would seem to make a lot of sense.
Mindfulness practice, however, in its basic form, does not emphasize studying our story so that we can change the story we’re telling ourselves. It doesn’t ask us to enter into a dialogue with our inner storyline to try to shift it. The basic instruction is to notice whatever thinking arises, see it for what it is, and come back to whatever anchor we are using for our attention, most commonly the breath.
So, which makes more sense and is more effective for coping with and healing anxiety?
“It’s not binary. There’s no need to think of one being right and the other wrong or one being necessarily better than the other,” according to Zindel Segal, Distinguished Professor of Psychology in Mood Disorders at the University of Toronto and one of the founders of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT).
In mindfulness practice, Segal says, you have an opportunity—the mental time and space, if you will—to see more elements of the story, a richer picture. “You may see more clearly as you anticipate a difficult encounter what the underlying emotion is that’s triggered and how it’s showing up in your body.” In this way, you become aware of the full context of the story, like seeing a flower opening in slow-motion photography. With this awareness, over time “your solid belief in a storyline may begin to erode.” And with that erosion, you may find that the story no long serves you and be willing to give up your attachment to it. It is usually the attachment to a particular way of looking at a story that causes stress, dis-stress, and even when taken to the extreme, dis-ease. Mindfulness and Mindful Meditation gives us the ability to just be a witness, to just observe, free from judgement and criticism the stories that frame our lives. Mindfulness allows us to, rather than making a story, a life event, a situation or circumstance be either bad or good, to just simply, BE.
When we can begin to grasp and fully appreciate that the answers we have all been earnestly seeking for so long are not to be found outside of ourselves, but rather within, and as more and more people come to this awareness and begin to meditate and practice mindfulness, become willing to just "Be Here Now", we will witness a shift in the consciousness experience of humanity like this planet has never known! THAT'S what all the fuss is about.
“The practice of mindfulness begins in the small, remote cave of your unconscious mind and blossoms with the sunlight of your conscious life, reaching far beyond the people and places you can see.” ~Earon Davis
Ordinarily, I do not endorse products in my blog, but the one I am about to mention has had such a profound impact on my life, my own Mindfulness practice, I just feel I have to make an exception. It's a tiny, little bracelet called "Meaning to Pause" that is unobtrusive, attractive, and very comfortable to wear. And it does a most amazing thing...it vibrates gently every 60-90 minutes (your preference) to remind you to PAUSE. To take just a moment or two, or however long you like, to breathe deeply, to re-center and ground yourself and your thoughts, to pray, to smile or laugh, to recite affirmations or affirm another, to manifest your dreams or world peace. Whatever you like, whatever you wish you could or would make time for in your day. Since I have been wearing mine, I am now gently reminded 16-17 times a day (yes, it has a "sleep" mode) to do any or all of the above and the impact it is having on me and those around me is nothing shy of transformational. My heart is filled with gratitude each time I feel its gentle, quiet vibration. You can learn more, or order your own by visiting http://www.meaningtopause.com/ Even if you decide you're not ready to order just now, the site is a way cool place to hang out!
Namaste, friends. Enjoy every moment of this beautiful season or renewal and rebirth!