Unwinding the Mind

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The nostalgia of childhood is always accompanied by a parent yelling out an instruction about something. How many times have we heard of a parent instructing a child “Now, be mindful of how you speak”.  Never has a parent said “Now, be meditative about how you speak”. This simple fact of life speaks a lot about meditation and mindfulness. Meditation is not something we do, but a certain quality of being. Just sitting and closing your eyes does not mean one is meditating. It is a certain way of being deeply absorbed.  In what we may ask? Actually nothing. That may seem strange and a complete misnomer, because it is hard to fathom deep absorption in not particularly anything.  There is a common misconception that meditation is “concentration” “focus” “control of mind”.  On the contrary meditation is anything but the act of doing. It is a state of deep absorption. It is hard to translate the experience of meditation into words.  For most people this state is hard to come by due to distractions wrought by the mind and body.  Simply put, you cannot do meditation, you can only become meditative.

Are the two same or different? Meditation is a quality, while mindfulness is a technique.  Both are experiential in nature, meaning one can only measure the effect or end results, but not the process itself as one is going through it, unlike a physical exercise, which can be observed and measured for various parameters.  Both lead to equanimity, mental clarity, emotional intelligence and the ability to relate to others and oneself with acceptance.

Mindfulness has become very popular in the west. Mindfulness was started by Jon Kabat-Zinn, who founded the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program at the University of Massachusetts to treat the chronically ill.  Mindfulness is practiced as a technique to maintain awareness of one’s thoughts, emotion and sensation without judgment.

To become meditative takes a lot more preparation, than practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness can be practiced by anyone regardless of age or ability. Mindfulness practice has been employed to reduce depression symptoms  to reduce stress, anxiety, obsessive thinking and in the treatment of drug addiction. Researchers analyzed the data from nearly 40 studies on mindfulness meditation and found that 95% of study participants found relief from their stress-based symptoms after practicing mindfulness meditation.  Stress impacts the immune system and alleviating stress prevents the symptoms and may even cure many diseases and illnesses.

A Simple Mindfulness Practice

1)  Find a quiet place where there are no distractions. Turn off your cell phone and ensure that you don’t need to get up for the period of time that you have set aside for the practice.  It is better to use the same space if you intend to practice daily.

2) Sit comfortably on the floor or chair.

3) Close your eyes and keep your attention on the breath.

4) If your mind wanders, which is normal, bring the attention back to the breath. Be aware of the thoughts and feelings that surface. Instead of wrestling with or engaging with those thoughts, practice observing without reacting.  Let them pass as you return your attention back to the breath.

5) Repeat this for long as you can sit.

Daily practice trains your mind to be mindful throughout the day, bringing the much needed awareness to  your thoughts and feelings.  It enhances one’s capacity to respond consciously vs reacting compulsively. Mindfulness creates the necessary ambiance to consciously let go of the negative impulses and move one into a more conscious and pleasant state within oneself.

If you are exploring meditation techniques, mindfulness is good way to start.  It is simple and easy to follow and practice.  Enjoy these mindfulness meditation videos.

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