I am a mindfulness practitioner and teacher. I am not a therapist, although mindfulness can be used therapeutically to help manage a range of conditions. I do not teach from a specifically Buddhist perspective, although obviously much of what I have learned and teach to others is grounded in Buddhist teachings. I thoroughly believe that mindfulness and meditation can be a very positive and life-changing activity that leads to greater peace and happiness. It is always a privilege to share its benefits with others.
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What’s it all about?
Mindfulness/meditation is a process of coming to know ourselves. We learn in the process what we are not: our thoughts, our bodies, our jobs, our possessions, our feelings, our beliefs or our past. There is a part of us that exists untouched by any of these things, a place of calm-abiding. We are learning to be OK with whatever is going on, and especially that it’s OK to be not-OK.
Lodro Rinzler puts it like this in his book “Sit Like a Buddha”: “fear, ignorance, pride, and many more harmful states that we perpetuate are not innate to who we are. They are things we pick up along the way. The core of who we are, according to Buddha’s experience, is awake. It is good. That means we are innately wise, worthy, strong, and (believe it or not) gentle beings. That is our birthright. The meditation practice is simply discovering that for yourself, cultivating those qualities and acting from them.”
Additionally, when we realise that our jobs, belongings, beliefs, feelings, etc. are not fundamental to who we are, we become less attached to them, they are less important to us and therefore they become less burdensome to us. In this way we begin to feel far less stressed by life and, as we become less fearful of losing what we have, our anxiety is relieved. Contentment and clarity gradually become a more habitual state.
The following meditations can be done sitting or lying:
- - breath
- - body
- - thoughts/feelings
- - no method
- - visualization (eg. mountain or lake)
Formal meditation can also take the form of mindful walking.
There are many day to day activities that can be used as informal objects of mindfulness. Commonly used activities are:
- - taking tea
- - washing up (a very traditional Buddhist practice)
- - brushing teeth
- - eating
Your goals in beginning meditation may include the following:
- - reducing stress
- - managing pain
- - reducing anxiety
- - managing anger
- - enlightenment
- - treating depression
It may be that you are simply curious to find out what meditation is and what its effect is. There is no “correct” answer to this one; but being clear on your intentions can to help keep you motivated when you find you are struggling with the practice.
It is important when beginning meditation to find ways to integrate practices into your daily life so that it becomes an habitual and normal part of your life.
This means you need to decide on a time of day that you can regularly put aside for your meditation and find a suitable environment too. Choosing the style of meditation and mindfulness practices that will best fit into your life will also help you to create the habit.
It is important to integrate practices into your life in a consistent way. The effects of mindfulness are cumulative so a regular, disciplined practice is vital.
To practice mindfulness and meditation, particular attitudes are helpful. These are:
- - curiosity
- - gentleness
- - non-judgment
Mindfulness can be practised almost anywhere, anytime and no special equipment is necessary. However, a few things may assist you:
- - a reflection diary
- - a suitable cushion/chair
- - a dedicated meditation space
- - guided meditation CD
- - a book of daily readings to help set your intention to be mindful each day