Week 31 – The Practice

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    There is much talk about the practice of meditation these days, in particular that of mindfulness meditation and the benefits of how it can and will transform your life. For many of us, myself included, this gold mine of bliss lies just beyond our reach because excuses such as ‘I don’t know how’ or ‘I don’t have time’ or ‘my mind won’t stop’ fill us with falsities and convictions of failure that we don’t even try. Getting to know and to clearly see all the thoughts and distractions (mental, emotional and physical) , is all part of a meditation practice.

    If you think about it, meditation is everywhere. Anything that requires a sense of mental focus and concentration, is meditation (dhyana). Meditation is not about not thinking, it’s about learning how to pay attention.Meditation is, as Jon Kabat-Zinn explains, “a journey of self- development, self-discovery, learning, and healing.” In sitting with yourself, you can paint a clear and honest picture of both the conscious and perhaps unconscious conditionings that have amounted into who, what and where you are today. Not to mention the countless benefits of physical and mental healing, accompanied by a sense of deep peace, meditation has the potential to eventually trickle into every aspects of your days. 

    Ideally, the best time to practice meditation is first thing in the morning for it is when much of the world is quiet and so too is your mind. Rising as little at 15 minutes earlier that your normal wake-up time, is an ample amount to start with for your meditation practice. One of the best ways to begin practicing meditation, is to start by simply observing your breath. 

    In a comfortable seat, preferably sitting of your own accord, guide yourself to take a full, deep and cleansing breath. Next, let your breath patterning even out as you calmly practice repeatedly paying attention your breath movements. Notice it moving in. Notice it moving out. Remain present to the ins and outs as that happen until you notice that you are no longer noticing. When you do notice you are distracted by something else but that thinking, remembering, naming, etc., simply return your attention, aka your mind, back to the breath and the inherent in and out movements. You might find counting of use when your mind feels out of sorts and unfocused. Counting to 4, 5 or 6 on both the in and out breaths can help to even out the breath and improve your concentration, meditation AND breathing practices. 

    Another simple meditation practice is to use a basic mantra. A mantra, is defined as a mind tool, something that your mind can hold onto like the glasses in the monkey’s hand, let the mental apparatus guide the mind into steadiness. Silently repeating the words IN and OUT while inhaling and exhaling, is an easy mantra to start with.

    Taken from the book Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn, here are seven attitudinal factors that will help you develop and maintain your mindfulness meditation practice.

    1. Non-judging: when you find the mind judging, you don’t have to stop it. Just be aware of it happening and how it is happening.
    2. Patience: to be patient is to simply be completely open to each moment, knowing things can only unfold in their own time.
    3. Beginner’s mind: a mind that is willing to see everything as if it were happening for the first time. 
    4. Trust: develop a basic trust in yourself and your feelings, even if you make some mistakes. It builds responsibility, wisdom and promotes healing.
    5. Non-striving: in the meditative domain, the best way to achieve your own goals is to back off from striving for results and instead to start focusing carefully on seeing and accepting things as they are.
    6. Acceptance: see things are they are. Pain is pain. Joy is joy. Accept the many things in life that we cannot change. 
    7. Letting go: this is a way of letting things be exactly as they are instead of trying to change it. 

    “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn