Awareness

Responding to A Call to Wholeness with Attentive Awareness: an Homage to SN Goenka

I had the opportunity to sit in Vipassana meditation last month over Thanksgiving.  It had been three years since my last course which was during my pregnancy.  Motherhood has been an amazing challenge and finding ways to meditate throughout the day has been difficult, so I was thrilled at the opportunity to revitalize my practice again.

These are the notes I made in the clarity after 3 days of meditating 12 hours a day, observing my breath, observing my physical sensations and observing all the roiling thoughts in my mind that were taking my attention from the present moment.

You are lost in thought again: your thoughts, the thoughts of others, thoughts started in the distant past, thoughts unfinished.  Thoughts re-crafted over and over of what you might have done or what you didn’t do.  Thoughts of the future, the distant future, the immediate future, thoughts of a possible future if only you act now.  Thoughts of people, of circumstances of dreams and expectations.  Thoughts of passion, of regret, of emptiness, thoughts of what might have happened if only you had done or said something different than what  had happened.

These thoughts boil and churn, tumbling over one another again and again, perhaps with slight variations as you reinforce them with your creative mind.  If only, of only, of only…..

These thoughts grip your mind, freezing it in a static stasis of immobility.  If only, if only, if only.  But…but…but…

Resist the temptation to reinforce the past you are trying to correct, it is impossible.  Practice being aware of these thoughts without engaging them.  Observe how they rise.  Observe yourself engage them.  Observe how your physical structure reacts to this process.  And then observe yourself observing all this.

Be still.  Observe awhile and eventually you will see the spaces between thoughts.  Continue observing with attentive awareness and those spaces of clarity will expand.  As you observe, you will see how thoughts arise into the spaces and you will observe yourself engaging those thoughts for awhile before letting them go and watching them fade away.  Do not become elated at this fading away.  Do not expect the momentary peaceful clarity to last.  For, certainly, another thought will arise again.

We are not able to change our thinking by eliminating the thinking process.  We can learn to not react to thoughts and by not reacting to them.  It is inevitable that they will fade away as part of the nature of life which is always and unavoidably ever-changing.  The law of nature is that all is ever changing.

In the first hours of Noble Speech once silence has been broken this past vipassana course, something that always comes up is the question of how it is that we have all come to vipassana as students.  Despite the wide variety of backgrounds and life experiences, it is always interesting to learn that we each came to vipassana in response to an inner call to wholeness.  My story is similar to many others:  A friend was talking about her experience at her first vipassana course.  Her description of the meditation schedule, though rigorous, struck me as exactly what I needed at the time.

My practice has waxed and waned of the subsequent 10 years through graduate school, business and child-rearing.  At times the discipline was strong and I was able to weather intense times of change with easy breaths.  At other times the responsibility to others overwhelmed me and I did not make time to practice and the challenges of life became intense struggles.  But always the same call to wholeness resounded and I returned to find the lessons of attentive awareness once again.

After this past course, I noticed the difference between myself as an older student and the expectations of the newer students that I once shared.  As an older student, now, I no longer expect to have a sudden change of life that will enable me to maintain this clarity.  I don’t expect that I will be able to instantly be able to fulfill the directive to meditate for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening.  And I can accept that without judgement.  I will do what I can do with gratitude for the moments of clarity that come as life keeps changing, changing, changing, ever-changing.

Karah Pino in meditation

Karah Pino in meditation

Vipassana Courses are offered around the world through the teaching of SN Goenka who transcended life this past September.  His recorded lessons teaching the technique and offering guidance to meditation ring true to new students and old students, young and old of all backgrounds and cultures.  Vipassana Courses are offered freely and donation of funds, time or other service are accepted but not expected.  To learn more, visit www.dhamma.org may all beings be happy.

Mindfulness Meditation for a Stress-Less Mind

Mindfulness Meditation for a Stress-Less Mind

We were listening to a radio interview we did recently, talking about the profound benefits of meditation. Deb had said, “Mindfulness meditation is revolutionary because it changes us simply by being fully present, completely aware of just this moment.” Which is absolutely true, but being in the present moment can be slippery, elusive — we want to be in Hawaii, start planning a Christmas shopping list, relive a disagreement with our partner, get distracted by the sound of the mailman outside or an aching knee. The possibilities are endless — all the many ways the mind can do something, anything, other than being present.

On average, we spend our time either living in what-could-have-been, what-might-have-been, or if-only, or in the expectation of what-could-be or what-might-be. But the truth is no matter how much we try, plan, plot, arrange, have things to do, leave the house at the same time each day, arrive at the office at the same time, pick up the kids on time, we can still never know what will happen in the next moment.

We used to live next to a glorious river in Devon, England and walked beside it each day. It was beautiful, but as much as it looked like the same river, even the same water, it was constantly changing — the water was never the same as even a second ago. Likewise, we may look the same but the cells in our body are forever forming, growing and dying; we are continually changing and renewing in every minute, we just aren’t aware of it.

Realizing the past is already gone and can never be relived, while the future is always ahead of us and consistently unknown, the only logical way to deal with this awareness is to be present with what is, whatever it is, as it is. Contrary to common belief, it can be immensely liberating to actually have nothing going on, to discover that the entire universe is contained in this very moment, to realize that nothing more is required than to just be aware and present. Imagine, what a relief! Finally, we can live without expectation, prejudice or longing, or the desire for things to be different than they are.

Being present invites a deep sense of completion, that there really is nowhere else we need to be or go. It’s impossible to think of somewhere else as being better, for the grass is vividly green exactly where we are. At a seminar someone once asked Ed if he had ever experienced another dimension. Ed replied, “Have you experienced this one?”

Right now, pause for a moment and take a deep breath. As you breath out, notice how your body feels, the chair you are sitting on, and the room you are in. That’s all. It only takes an instant to be present. Or, as a way of reminding yourself, put Post-its in strategic places around your home (on your bathroom mirror, the fridge, the inside of the front door, etc.) that say things like: NOW is the greatest moment, Be Here Now; Stop, smile and Breathe; Only this Moment Exists; There Is Just This, NOW!

It’s also essential that, as neuroscientist Brian Jones teaches, you tune down your sympathetic nervous system (the flight and fight response) and tune into your parasympathetic nervous system (the rest and relaxation response). You can do this through breathing and mindfulness techniques and can learn more atrevolutionarymindfulness.com

Mindfully Meditating In the Moment 
Mindfully meditating on the flow of the breath naturally brings us into the present while bringing our awareness inward, rather than being focused outward. The breath is just breathing, and yet it is never the same, each breath is completely different to the last one. You can simultaneously silently repeat, “I am here, I am now, I am present! I am here, I am now, I am present!”

Practice: Being and Breathing Meditation
Sit comfortably with your back straight, hands are in your lap, eyes are closed. Spend a few minutes settling your body, being aware of the room around you and the chair you are sitting on.

Now bring your focus to your breathing, just watch the natural movement of air as you breathe in and out. Silently repeat, “Breathing in, breathing out.”

Stay with watching your breath. If your mind starts to drift just see your thoughts as birds in the sky and watch them fly away. Then come back to the breath.

Anytime you get distracted, bored, or lost in thinking, just come back to the breath, to this moment now. Silently repeat, “I am here, I am now, I am present! I am here, I am now, I am present!”

You can do this for a few minutes or as long as you like. When you are ready, take a deep breath and let it go, open your eyes, and move gently.

What keeps you from being mindfully here and now? Do comment below. You can receive notice of our blogs by checking Become a Fan at the top.

Ed and Deb are the co-founders, with Brian Jones, of RevolutionaryMindfulness.com. Join to get our newsletter, free meditation downloads, community support, and learn to balance your nervous system. They are the authors of award winning Be The Change, How Meditation can Transform You and the World. See more at RevolutionaryMindfulness.comand EdandDebShapiro.com.

How Mindfulness Meditation Works | IdeaFeed | Big Think

How Mindfulness Meditation Works

June 30, 2013, 2:51 PM
Mindfulness

What’s the Latest Development?

Mindfulness meditation, a process through which the practitioner becomes more aware of his or her own thoughts and emotions, is gaining in popularity across the US, with medical studies and productivity reports behind the practice. A report issued by the German Justus Liebig-University and Harvard Medical School suggests that “mindfulness meditation operates through a combination of several distinct mechanisms: attention regulation, body awareness, emotion regulation, and a change in perspective on the self.” When the processes combine, an enhanced capacity for self-regulation is achieved.

What’s the Big Idea?

The process of achieving greater self-awareness, and therefore greater self-control, has three main phases: awareness of the mind, awareness of the body, and finally, a dissociation between thought and identity. In a culture that continually emphasizes the cultivation of the self, this may be the most profound lesson that mindfulness meditation has to offer. “According to the Justus Liebig-University and Harvard Medical School report, upon achieving a strong sense of internal awareness and the ability to ‘observe our mental processes with increasing clarity,’ we begin to see the self as something that is continually arising, rather than fixed.”

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com

Read it at The Atlantic

How Mindfulness Meditation Works | IdeaFeed | Big Think.

Why Writers Should Practice Meditation – And How to Get Started

Meditation is usually associated with relaxation and stress release, but those outcomes are more accurately by-products of the practice.

The true purpose of meditation is to quiet the mind.

When that happens, all kinds of personal benefits ensue, including improved health and resiliancy, greater awareness, and the spiritual awakening that comes from tapping into one’s true nature.

A quiet mind allows you to move beyond thought to the place where we all create, which is the space between our thoughts, and that’s a good place to be if you are a writer.

Releasing Stress and Mental Blocks

The reason we experience stress, writer’s block, and other counter-productive behaviors and conditioned responses, is that we are stuck in our thoughts. The first challenge is recognizing this, and then ceasing to fight it, because any resistance only serves to immobilize you further.

The more you struggle with your thoughts the more you reinforce your physical condition. You are literally squeezing your thought patterns down to a few, thereby dramatically increasing their intensity. This leads to even greater levels of stress, including uncontrollable anger.

Find the Space between Thoughts

Discovering the space between thoughts is something that healthy individuals do on a regular basis. It can happen by taking a walk through nature, or when actively engaged with activities you enjoy, such as writing.

The process of writing is different for everyone. However, for most of us it brings our attention inward, where we reconnect with our true selves, thereby making new discoveries.

To find the space between thoughts you have to first give yourself permission to do so. You have to trust your capabilities for getting there, just as a meditator will trust that the mantra will effectively lead to states of greater awareness.

How to Meditate

Traditional meditation involves the repetition of a mantra – which is a sound. The word mantra roughly translates as “instrument of the mind,” and its use helps to create the desired quieting of the mind.

A breath awareness meditation is a simple and universal approach – one in which the breath serves as the mantra.

Steps for practicing a mindfulness meditation.

While it helps to have a quiet environment, you can meditate on an airplane just well as in the privacy of your home. If possible, it also helps to dim the lights.

Begin by sitting down. Get get comfortable and assume a good posture, either sitting down on the floor or a chair.

Close your eyes and allow your awareness to go to your breathing. Innocently observe your breath as you breathe in and out.

As you observe your breath you may notice it changes – in speed, rhythm, and depth. It may even stop for a moment. Whatever happens, just continue observing it without expectation.

From time to time your attention may drift to a thought in your mind, a sensation in your body, or a noise in the environment. Whenever you notice you are not observing your breath, simply bring your awareness back to your breathing.

Continue this practice for at least 5 minutes, and continue for as long as it is comfortable. Over time you will be able to sustain the practice for the optimum period of 30 minutes.

Keep your eyes closed when you decide to stop, and just remain silent for 30 seconds or so before getting up to allow your mind and body to stabilize.

Slowly open your eyes, bring the lights up, and return to your writing.

Writing is a Process

I recently finished writing my first book: Built-In Social: Essential Social Marketing Practices for Every Small Business. I can say with certainty that I experienced my share of writer’s block, frustration, and even outright anger because I was holding on too tight at times.

Also, having never written a complete book, I had some fears about its accomplishment. What I discovered was writing well is largely a process of remembering, and then extending those ideas further. That was possible by practicing ways to maintain a quiet mind.

Writing is a process, and once you find yours, everything becomes much easier. Then its just a matter of doing the work.

The same holds true for for just about any endeavor, including social marketing.

In fact, the promise of Built-In Social is a reliable process that takes the stress and anxiety out of using social marketing well – including, and especially, writing valuable content that attracts business leads.

Are you and your business ready to write?

via Why Writers Should Practice Meditation – And How to Get Started | Business 2 Community.

 

The hows and whys of meditation for beginners

SALT LAKE CITY — Meditation is not just for yoga instructors anymore.

A Ph.D. In Seattle includes meditation as a treatment protocol for a personality disorder, a midwife in Maine teaches its practice in preparing women for childbirth, a Minneapolis business guru advocates it as a way to increase productivity, clinicians across the nation suggest it as a pain management regimen.

The practice of meditation and the principles of what is being called “mindfulness” are being brought into life’s mainstream as the many benefits are being recognized and embraced.

But for many, mediation is still a bit mystical and a strange practice they do not understand.

“There are just so many misconceptions about meditation,” said Kate Mitcheom, director of midwifery at Fair Haven Community Health. “It’s not mind control, and it’s not denying what’s going on in your life. It’s learning how to focus your mind and to pay attention to the present moment.”

Benefits of meditation

Living in the present moment is a powerful concept but can be elusive. As Jennifer Drawbridge, midwife and writer, observed, “Focusing on the present — not allowing my mind to race forward to stress over an imaginary and catastrophic future or circle back to review hideously stressful past experiences — is not one of my strong suits.”

Meditation can seem like a waste of time in our busy lives, but there are real benefits to it, and you can do it without sitting in a conspicuous lotus position in the park. So what are the benefits of meditation?

Mitcheom extols another benefit of meditation: “Through meditation, we become aware of patterns in our mind and gain insight into how our minds work.”

Research literature also indicates that awareness and the insights it provides can help reduce stress, lower blood pressure, decrease symptoms of depression and help in dealing with chronic pain.

Mindfulness depends on meditation to create awareness of what is going on inside the mind and heart but also requires “acceptance” to produce its greatest benefits — primarily, acceptance of those things that are beyond one’s ability to control. Alcoholics Anonymous’ Serenity Prayer provides the guide, “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change.”

Awareness obstacles

Resistance is the “anti” of acceptance. The factors of life outside of one’s control, those things one perceives as unacceptable, are awareness killers. They are the engine driving the stress and drama machine that seem to come as original equipment on most Americans.

“Whatever you fight, you strengthen, and what you resist, persists,” said pre-emminent awareness guru Eckhart Tolle.

Some resist their past. They can get lost in their perceived shortcomings, reliving, remembering, reproducing all the shame, guilt and depression that comes with it. Some resist the future with worry, the mother of anxiety and apprehension. Each approach can create emotional storms that obscure awareness.

“Worry pretends to be necessary but serves no useful purpose.”

–Eckhart Tolle

These storms of emotion disrupt connection with self. People are easily lost in them. They lose touch with the present moment. Like Mother Nature’s violent thunderstorms or tornadoes, these emotional storms can make one emotionally desolate, unable to nurture the awareness connection.

The past, it turns out, is history; it cannot be changed. The future does not exist yet; it is not real. With the exceptions of prudent planning and preparation, any worry effort placed in the future will be outside of reality and, therefore, pointless. As Tolle would say, “Worry pretends to be necessary but serves no useful purpose.”

The other great deterrent to awareness is the racing mind. The out-of-control coming and going of thought creates “mental noise” that obscures awareness of the present moment. Quieting the mind with acceptance and practicing meditation reveals this particular moment’s opportunities. Once it is in place, awareness and experiencing the present moment become possible.

Simple meditations

Practicing meditation need not be elaborate. For chaotic times, Mitcheom advises, “When you wake each day, take a few deep breaths and set an intention — a thought for yourself and for others — and repeat it throughout the day. Something as simple as, “May I have happiness, may those around me be happy.”

Another simple form of meditation involves using the second hand on a watch or clock. Draw in breath for five seconds and release the breath for five seconds, and repeat for several minutes. Empty the mind of thoughts and don’t follow any new ones that want on your mind’s stage. Send them away and do not follow them. Just bring your attention to your body and its breathing: In, two, three, four, five, Out, two, three, four, five.

There! I think I feel better already.

via The hows and whys of meditation for beginners | ksl.com.