The Tibetan singing bell invites us to relax … the facilitator invites us to be calm and quiet our mind … and then the trip begins.
when was the first time I meditated? Oh yeah, 8th grade, Sister Del Rey, at that parochial school in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, what was its name? …. Oh well, can’t remember everything …
it was a homework assignment: find a quiet place and let your mind float …
I remember a green jade Buddha statue floating … I wasn’t attending a Buddhist school … ha!
was it 30 minutes, I’m sure I’m exaggerating, probably only 15 at most … must write down what thoughts come and go during this experiment … I only remember that floating Buddha today, but I also remember feeling refreshed afterward even after all these years …
thoughts come and go like clouds on a windy day … oh, Thay’ you made this Zen Buddhist thing so easy for us
it was maybe fifteen years later that my significant other (now my second wife of many years) invited me to try TM … transcendental meditation … that was a nice experience … I even purchased a mantra … did that for a while but
something about Zen Buddhism … Thomas Merton … D. T. Suzuki … Thich Nhat Hanh … sangha … bellmaster …
There are many wonderful black bodhisattvas you may not know yet. For example, the two delightful young women shown above who share their meditation experience and wisdom on their website: https://www.blackzen.co/
Check out their 124 podcast recordings on how “consistent meditation application can lead to ridiculously positive impact” in your life.
You might start with Episode #124 which identifies their Top 10 Podcasts Most Likely to Help You Grow. Here’s their top 10 list but don’t forget to listen to their reasons for why they created the list and how each podcast can help you.
“Practices for Improving Emotional and Physical Well-Being
Mindfulness is the practice of purposely focusing your attention on the present moment—and accepting it without judgment. Mindfulness is now being examined scientifically and has been found to be a key element in stress reduction and overall happiness.
What are the benefits of mindfulness?
Professor emeritus Jon Kabat-Zinn helped to bring the practice of mindfulness meditation into mainstream medicine and demonstrated that practicing mindfulness can bring improvements in both physical and psychological symptoms as well as positive changes in health, attitudes, and behaviors.
Mindfulness improves well-being.
Mindfulness improves physical health.
Mindfulness improves mental health. In recent years, psychotherapists have turned to mindfulness meditation as an important element in the treatment of a number of problems, including depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, couples’ conflicts, anxiety disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
There is more than one way to practice mindfulness, but the goal of any mindfulness technique is to achieve a state of alert, focused relaxation by deliberately paying attention to thoughts and sensations without judgment. This allows the mind to refocus on the present moment. All mindfulness techniques are a form of meditation.
Basic mindfulness meditation – Sit quietly and focus on your natural breathing or on a word or “mantra” that you repeat silently. Allow thoughts to come and go without judgment and return to your focus on breath or mantra.
Body sensations – Notice subtle body sensations such as an itch or tingling without judgment and let them pass. Notice each part of your body in succession from head to toe.
Sensory – Notice sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches. Name them “sight,” “sound,” “smell,” “taste,” or “touch” without judgment and let them go.
Emotions – Allow emotions to be present without judgment. Practice a steady and relaxed naming of emotions: “joy,” “anger,” “frustration.” Accept the presence of the emotions without judgment and let them go.
Mindfulness meditation builds upon concentration practices. Here’s how it works:
Go with the flow. In mindfulness meditation, once you establish concentration, you observe the flow of inner thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations without judging them as good or bad.
Pay attention. You also notice external sensations such as sounds, sights, and touch that make up your moment-to-moment experience. The challenge is not to latch onto a particular idea, emotion, or sensation, or to get caught in thinking about the past or the future. Instead, you watch what comes and goes in your mind and discover which mental habits produce a feeling of well-being or suffering.
Stay with it. At times, this process may not seem relaxing at all, but over time it provides a key to greater happiness and self-awareness as you become comfortable with a wider and wider range of your experiences.
Above all, mindfulness practice involves accepting whatever arises in your awareness at each moment. It involves being kind and forgiving toward yourself.
Some tips to keep in mind:
Gently redirect. If your mind wanders into planning, daydreaming, or criticism, notice where it has gone and gently redirect it to sensations in the present.
Try and try again. If you miss your intended meditation session, simply start again.
By practicing accepting your experience during meditation, it becomes easier to accept whatever comes your way during the rest of your day.
Cultivate mindfulness informally
In addition to formal meditation, you can also cultivate mindfulness informally by focusing your attention on your moment-to-moment sensations during everyday activities. This is done by single-tasking—doing one thing at a time and giving it your full attention. As you floss your teeth, pet the dog, or eat an apple, slow down the process and be fully present as it unfolds and involves all of your senses.
Invest in yourself
The effects of mindfulness meditation tend to be dose-related — the more you do, the more effect it usually has. Most people find that it takes at least 20 minutes for the mind to begin to settle, so this is a reasonable way to start. If you’re ready for a more serious commitment, Jon Kabat-Zinn recommends 45 minutes of meditation at least six days a week. But you can get started by practicing the techniques described here for shorter periods.
Meditation and poetry, meditators and poets, like two hands coming together in namaste.
One of the most famous poets of all time is Rumi (full name Jalāl al-Dīn Muḥammad Rūmī). He wrote poetry in the 13th century in Persian, Turkish, Arabic and Greek. His poetry was influenced by his Sufi meditation.
“Rumi was a scholar and poet that lived in 13th century Persia (now modern-day Iran.) Like all extraordinary gifted and profound teachers, Rumi’s words have transcended time and place.
An Islamic scholar and Sufi mystic, Rumi wrote much of his thoughts down in the form of poems … it’s well-known that Rumi was a mystic, devoted to contemplation and self-surrender … Rumi certainly practiced Mur?qabah, an Arabic word that translates to observation in English. Mur?qabah is a form of Sufi meditation where the goal is to “watch over” their spiritual heart and to gain insight into the Ultimate truth.
This week I am focusing on mindfulness aka contemplation or meditation. Today, I focus on Richard Rohr‘s 90-minute video offering a Christian perspective of contemplation. Here are the top 10 key highlights for me:
the quicker we let go of ego and move beyond a positive self-image, the quicker we realize that we are spiritual beings learning how to be fully human
religion is both the best and worst thing in the world if we never transform beyond our ego
Christianity is simply learning how to lose graciously; a Christian is someone who has met one
We shouldn’t say prayers; rather we should be one
it’s right relationship over correct performance
move beyond limousine liberal imaging
how you do anything (in the present moment) is how you do everything
the first half of any contemplative sit is seeing our own “garbage” and hopefully the second half is letting it go to reconnect with present moment awareness
to observe is far more effective than attacking
the most radical thing we can do is contemplation
Finally, I especially appreciated Rohr’s summation that we should not confuse meeting attendance or group membership with transformation. The bigger picture of contemplation is not to get hung up on posture, process or programs. Contemplation is about reconnecting with our higher power and recognizing our relationship with everyone and everything.
If you’re looking for something new to help you focus and feel more peaceful this year, then consider mindfulness meditation. You don’t have to adopt a new religion to do this. Contemplation is something found across religions and secular psychological traditions and there are many simple ways to learn about this calming practice.
For example, check out the free daily teaching from Tricycle Magazine this month; find more information below.