Relax and Recharge with Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness Meditation is a technique for slowing down and examining one’s thought processes, and learning to be “in the moment”.  Mindfulness is a based on Buddhist principles but it is not a religious based activity.

There are both physiological and psychological benefits to Mindfulness Meditation, including decreased heart rate, breathing rate and production of carbon dioxide.  Other benefits include increased blood flow to the arms and legs, and increased levels of concentration and focus.  There are numerous psychological benefits as well:  reduced anxiety, improved sleep, decreased cigarette smoking, headache relief and a general state of positive mental health.

Mindfulness Meditation was developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn who is the founding Executive Director of the Centre for Mindfulness at the University Of Massachusetts Medical School.  He teaches Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) at venues around the world.  Two of his most popular books are Full Catastrophe Living (1991) and Wherever You Go, There You Are (1994).

It is beyond the scope of this article to fully explain the process of Mindfulness Meditation.  I suggest you access YouTube and search for Mindfulness Meditation.  One guided meditation that I particularly like is Vipassana (Mindfulness Meditation Guided with Music).  This is a very structured introduction to Mindfulness and gently explains how to practice this method over a 15 minute meditation.  You can also purchase in-store or online Mindfulness Meditation CD’s.

John Kabat-Zinn describes seven attitudinal qualities that underpin mindfulness practice.  These qualities are:

1)      Non-judging – being open to an awareness of the stream of thoughts we are having, being aware of the way we tend to automatically judge and react to our thoughts.  Kabat-Zinn calls this “a stance of an impartial witness to your experience.”

2)      Patience – an understanding that things emerge in their own time, including your ability to practice mindfulness.

3)      Beginner’s Mind – a willingness to see everything as if for the first time, and avoiding the fog of preconceptions.

4)      Trust – developing a faith in the validity of one’s own thoughts, feelings and intuition.  Mindfulness practice offers a structure and a process for enabling one to witness personal experience without judgement.

5)      Non-Striving – an attitude that allows the present to be the way it is.  Non-striving is “having no goal other than for you to be yourself as you currently are.”

6)      Acceptance – this is an openness and willingness to see things as they actually are in the present moment.

7)      Letting Go – during meditation, we need to develop an ability to acknowledge the arising and passing of experiences without becoming entangled in the content of it.

When engaged in Mindfulness Meditation, the focus should be on your breath.  Breathing in for the count of 4 and exhaling to the count of 4.  Your mind will wander to current issues in your life.  Be aware of these thoughts without judging them, and then bring your focus back to your breath.

We can be mindful in many ways in our everyday life…….all it takes is that moment to slow everything down:

–          Mindful in the Shower – instead of the usual vigorous body wash, slow the process down and feel the water running all over your body and the smooth sensation of the soap cleansing your skin.

–          Mindful Eating – always in a hurry, we often gobble our food.  Take time at your next meal to savour the aroma of the meal, enjoying each mouthful, the taste and the texture.

–          Mindful Walking – notice your surroundings, the sounds, the birds, the wind, and all the wonderful sounds of the outdoors.  Focus on the present, not some worry or issue that you are struggling with.

Mindfulness Meditation has been proven to be a very effective method of dealing with stress, anxiety and depression.  I encourage you to try this method and slowly build up the time you engage in Mindfulness Meditation.  I am certain that you will enjoy the experience and its overall calming effect.

Sources:

Crane, R., Elias D., 2006, Being With What Is, Therapy Today, 17(10)31

McGinn, Dave, The Globe and Mail, “Stressed Out?  Try Mindfulness Meditation” (1/9/11)

Martens A., Gilks L., D’Alessio K., Mindfulness and Meditation Study, Centennial College, Toronto, 2009

University of Massachusetts Medical School

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Dave Neary is a Counsellor/Psychotherapist in private practice in Kingston, Ontario and enjoys his own practice of Mindfulness Meditation.

Dave can be contacted at [email protected], www.nearycounsellingkingston.ca or 613-453-9330.