Mark Coleman

Yes, even you can meditate – latimes.com

By Mary MacVean

March 30, 2013

If meditation sounds intriguing, you can try it out — in as few as 10 minutes a day — without leaving your office.

“I’d say there’s quite a range [of styles],” says Mark Coleman, a longtime teacher. “Sitting. Stillness. Movement. Yoga, tai chi, chi gong. Ones that cultivate the heart, mind and awareness and clarity. Concentration meditations — mantras. Various New Age meditations that focus on energy. Once you choose, you have to give it some period of time to evaluate.”

There are many free or low-cost downloads available and classes at meditation centers, universities and such sites as Kaiser Permanente, which offers meditation programs for members and employees.

Rachel Donaldson, senior behavioral health educator at Kaiser, says all sorts of people are attracted to the class, including those who get headaches, feel anxious or have insomnia. “We try to make it comfortable for people,” she says, by explaining it’s not a religion, telling people they don’t need to sit cross-legged and enabling them to “stick their toe in the water” with an easy entry such as mindful eating.

James Gimian, publisher of the new Mindful magazine, likens the status of meditation to that of yoga a couple of decades ago, moving from the margins of life to gaining an estimated 20 million U.S. practitioners.

Andy Puddicome, a former Buddhist monk and founder of the meditation nonprofit Headspace, says he wants people to integrate mindfulness into ordinary activities. “That’s ultimately where we need to bring it, in the midst of everyday life. It’s a great opportunity to learn to be mindful when you are chopping the vegetables or gardening. Eating, clearing up, making a cup of tea.”

In her memoir, “Blood, Bones and Butter,” the New York chef Gabrielle Hamilton describes a life busy beyond imagining. But when she prepares food, she says, her mind becomes “free to sort everything out. I have never once finished an eight-hour prep shift without something from my life — mundane or profound — sorted out.”

UCLA’s Diana Winston tries walking meditation on the way from the parking lot to her office in Westwood. “When I am harried or rushed, it’s trying to maintain an awareness and have compassion for myself when I screw up.”

Mary.macvean@latimes.com

via Yes, even you can meditate – latimes.com.

Mindfulness meditation: It may be essential, but, boy, it isn’t easy – latimes.com

By Mary MacVean

March 30, 2013

On the third day of silence and meditation, I said just 14 words, all of them in the course of chopping vegetables for dinner.

Days two, four and five were not much different.

I’m not the quiet type. But this was my idea. So earlier this year, I drove most of a day to reach Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Marin County to immerse myself in the practice of mindful meditation. To be still, clear of worry over career, my teenage sons’ futures, the renovations of our old house. To see whether I could stop — just stop — for five days and perhaps for a little bit each day afterward.

Not talking turned out to be easy.

Meditation, however, is hard work.

Defining ‘mindfulness’

In the last decade or so, meditation has gone mainstream — practiced by buttoned-down professionals, prison inmates, public school students, Hollywood celebrities, even the military and, reportedly, Bill Clinton. It’s being studied by scientists for its effects on blood pressure, depression, pain and attention problems. In our racing-forward lives, we are reaching back thousands of years for wisdom about living.

There are hundreds of forms of meditation, but among the best known in the U.S. is mindfulness meditation, and that’s what I embraced at Spirit Rock.

Diana Winston, who lived for a time as a Buddhist nun and now is director of education at UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center, defines it: “Paying attention to present moment experiences with open, curious attention and a willingness to be with what is.”

It’s spiritual but not religious – the way many people view their place in the universe these days. The idea is to gain clarity, wisdom and freedom, to end up feeling compelled to behave with integrity and compassion.

There were nearly 100 of us, who paid $460 to $885 (on a sliding scale) for the retreat called “Essential Dharma Meditation.” Our days were scheduled from 6 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. with sitting meditation, walking meditation, eating meditation, working meditation (chopping vegetables was my daily chore). No reading, no writing, no cellphones.

Getting started

Mark Coleman, one of my teachers at the retreat, says people typically arrive at Spirit Rock “exhausted [and] burned out.” After a couple of days, “this gets exaggerated, because we start feeling how completely exhausted we are. But “people usually leave feeling buoyant, grounded, more clear. Brightness in their eyes. Body more upright.”

When I checked in, I was assigned to a room with a twin bed, folding chair, bedside table and the smallest sink I’ve ever seen. I zeroed in on the only electronic item in the room and instantly thought to turn on NPR. But then I remembered: silence. It was just a clock, not a radio.

I felt apprehensive. I missed my husband. But I didn’t miss my BlackBerry.

Walking outside, a few minutes before dinner, my worries were calmed by the rolling, grassy hills and the wide-open sky. At least the setting was beautiful.

Meals were vegetarian, buffet style, simple but fresh and delicious. We bused our dishes, lining up two at a time to scrape every last bit for compost. One of the few sounds at meals was that particular clink of utensils hitting Corelle dinnerware. I especially appreciated the silence at this time: no pressure to chat about hometowns, jobs, families.

After dinner, we heard from the teachers at “dharma talks,” lectures on the practice of meditation, the Buddha and the retreat itself. (While we yogis, as the teachers call us, were silent most of the time, the teachers were less so.)

We started our first sitting meditation with the direction to attend only to our breathing. If you lose track, teacher Howard Cohn said, just return to it, without judgment — one of many easier-said-than-done instructions I heard during my five days of silence.

I breathed in, expanding my chest. Suddenly, I was sorting out details of a dinner I was giving when I got back to L.A. Oops. Back to the breath. One breath, maybe two, and my mind was off again, wondering about my son who was on a trip to Israel.

via Mindfulness meditation: It may be essential, but, boy, it isn’t easy – latimes.com.

Mindful meditation could help you get through the madness – latimes.com

Mindful meditation could help you get through the madness

By Mary MacVean

April 16, 2013, 3:59 p.m.

Mark Coleman has been practicing meditation for 30 years. In a conversation with the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday morning, he offers some thoughts and advice about how to get started. If you’ve ever been intrigued by the idea of mindful meditation, he provides all you need to get started — and the entry bar is low: just five minutes a day.

Mindfulness is being used in prisons, public schools, corporations and the military to help people focus and improve their reactions. It can even help make the traffic more bearable. But as Coleman discusses, mindfulness is a serious pursuit that can help people respond to the happy and difficult things we inevitably confront.

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