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MINDFULNESS MEDITATION 101
© Copyright 2012, All Rights Reserved.
According to The Institute for Stress 75-90% of visits to primary care physicians are for stress-related complaints; and research is proving that meditation is one of the healthiest practices for reducing stress, increasing performance, and increasing happiness and general well-being. I know for myself it has been a huge help in my life and the benefits of meditation are endless, especially the more you practice and develop the skill. From the age of a young adult I used meditation to perform better at sports, school and my health has soared mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Mindfulness is defined as focusing your attention on the present-moment, non-judgmentally. It is a skill and a still that can be taught and mastered, a skill to center the mind, body and emotions to one point, or Samadhi, one pointed-centered concentrated focus. Research proves that when the brain focuses, the two hemispheres connect sending extremely positive effects throughout the brain and creating new pathways for the brain. These positive effects include lower stress hormones and raising endorphins giving us a natural way to create happiness, balance and less emotional dysfunction. It's no wonder why every religion always has a sect of the faith that practices some form of meditative or completive practice, it happens to be an art that has been practiced for health and healing as well as spiritual development for thousands of years.
The emerging field of mindfulness stems from Buddhist roots but today it has been adapted by main stream medicine and health-care services to aid in the healing process. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program was first used and developed by Massachusetts Medical School and Doctor Jon Kabat-Zinn to help his patients regain their health from stress-related issues. Along with practicing medicine, Kabat-Zinn had also studied Buddhism and the art of meditation and was the first to combine meditation as a form of health-care and medicine.
At the same time Jon Kabat-Zinn was introducing meditation for health-care reasons, mindfulness started emerging as the 3rd sect of cognitive-behavioral psychology. Teaching meditation is one of the foundations of my professional practice because it facilitates the healing process and has so many positive effects, especially over time. Only you can heal you, but it is important to get proper instruction and develop a space to practice healing. Healing transforms one's life, and often, not always, produces a physical cure. Healing can many times be measured in success by increased well-being, inner peace, empowerment, and a sense of connection with the community, yourself and all of life. I love facilitating group work to help my clients because it is always easier for clients to heal while in the presence of others. Here is how Eckhart Tolle, author of the Power of Now put it:
"Group work can also be helpful for intensifying the light of your presence. A group of people coming together in a state of presence generates a collective energy field of great intensity. It not only raises the level of each member but also helps to free the collective human consciousness from its current state of mind dominance."
I first came across the practice when I was 18 years old; it was a form of completive prayer, which science has proved prayer and meditation have the same affect in the brain. At the age of 20 I had some difficult situations arise and I became extremely depressed and starting to suffer in relationships, school, and I was simply not a happy person. I tried to use medication but that had bad side effects and I know alcohol or drugs would only make things worse. I was reminded about meditation through the cover of "Time" magazine which mentioned that meditation was best natural way to relieve stress. The article showed studies that meditation reduced blood pressure by 49% and meditation actually creates endorphins in the brain, which make you feel naturally high. After a month of meditating around 45 minutes/day 6 days/week my symptoms were less but I was not convinced. After 2 months I was seeing major improvements and at 4 months I had little if no symptoms and was amazed by the results.
Through the years I have developed varied techniques and practices of mediating for different objectives. Mindfulness meditation deals more with the mind-body connection and helping clients connect with the breath. Science from biology to chemistry to psychology has recently found that the mind and body are connected and both can influence each other. With mindfulness meditation we invite you to experience (through practice) this mind-body interaction in yourself. We also know that the more in balance you are the more naturally the mind, body, emotions and spirit can heal. Mindfulness meditation is one of the ways meditation is taught, but the basics of meditation are all the same and in the western world we might refer to it as a form of intense focus training. Meditation is the art of learning to focus your attention more fully and for longer periods of time on to one point. This one point could be a candle, a point on the wall, or even your own breath. Many times we practice focusing on our breath and this is for many reasons but the most practical is that the breath never leaves you, and this practice can be done anywhere anytime. By directing your attention to your breath, the goal is to keep your attention there as long as possible, but eventually you will find that the nature of the mind is to wonder and when it does we become aware that it has wondered and non-judgingly bring our focus back to the breath. This continually trains the mind to be able to focus, open up new pathways in the brain, and create natural balance or equinity within the mind-body.
Awareness is the first step to changing anything, if you not aware that there is a problem in your thinking or aware that a solution exists, you are not empowered to change it. This path is not for everyone because it does take commitment but this is a path to finding happiness and inner joy. The secret to changing any situation in life is not in changing others, that's almost always too difficult, but in changing yourself. Healing is about experiencing your pain, and transforming the pain so it strengthens you, giving you an opportunity out of suffering. Once you get the mind focused you realize you can accomplish your goals and once you get the mind quite you can become a more masterful person over yourself.
© Copyright 2012 Erik Leslie, All Rights Reserved.