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Mindfulness Meditation For Stress Reduction

Mindfulness meditation expounded by the great Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, has in the recent years found to be of immense value in the treatment of mental and psychiatric illness. But its greatest application seems to be in the reduction of stress in the day-to-day life. This method of meditation is as old of Buddha himself, which is in the 6th century BC and probably may have been practiced even earlier in India. Since Buddha, several experts in India, Tibet, Thailand and many modern day experts in the West have modified the core teaching for specific applications and also have explained the concept to greater clarity.

One of the core principles in mindfulness meditation is that only the present ‘moment’ is the true and the only reality. We live in moments. The past and the future are just illusions of the mind. The practice essentially breaks the regular patterns of the mind, which likes to stay in the past and the future and brings it back to the present moment. When you embrace the present moment without any judgment, you become free of worries and concerns of the past and the future.

It has also been found to be of immense benefit to treat problems of addiction. Everyone has a lot of habits that affect their effectiveness and prevent them from truly enjoying their life. These habits overtime on repeated reinforcing become permanent and we hardly even notice that we have such a habit as it becomes unconscious. Now this mindfulness meditation brings us attention to parts of ourselves that we have neglected or have taken it for granted. Oh! I am like that and I can’t change that. Once we start paying attention to these old habits, we see them in new light, in an entirely new context and suddenly we realize that we can probably change these negative habits by some intervention.

The medical and psychiatric applications of the mindfulness meditation were experimented extensively by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, a professor in the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester. His video presentation of the mindfulness meditation is available in the youtube and you can find it by searching for his name.

Most of the people are worried all the time about the past and the future, never truly experiencing or rather enjoying the present. But in reality life is a sequence of present moments. The mind is conditioned to think of the difficulties and enjoyments of the past and the future, never really paying attention to the present moment, which constitutes the true reality. The mind is not stable in the present, wandering here and there constantly. This makes the mind always worried and unstable and any noteworthy accomplishment cannot be done using such an unsteady mind. Bringing the mind to the present moment brings immense joy and freedom from all sorts of concerns. Though it doesn’t happen overnight. To accomplish something great, work is needed. Hard work and persistence alone can advance us in this meditation. Bringing the mind to the present moment is one of the hardest of activities that one can do and you will soon understand this once you begin your practice regularly.

Now the question is how do I begin the mindfulness meditation. It is rather simple to explain but difficult to follow. It is basically bringing awareness to whatever we do and think. This is the core of the Buddhist teaching. You can modify it, as you like. Say you can be mindful every time your eye blinks. Your eye blinks automatically but now you bring your awareness to that blinking action. Bring your awareness to the present moment every time your eye blinks or every time you stand or every time you eat or whichever action you think are most suitable for you. You should have some rituals like the above to advance in this practice. But the commonest path advocated is to bring awareness to one’s own breathing. We breathe our whole without being aware of the fact most of the time. This breathing meditation is called Anapana Sati. To start with you will not understand how far your mind is away from the true reality. Within one week after practicing this meditation I was becoming aware when my mind was shifting to needless fantasies in the future. You will be prompted that the mind is not in the present moment so you have the choice to revert back to the present moment. You should be open and be trusting to all the experiences that the real moment has to offer.

Buddha advises us to do all the physical actions consciously. What this means is that when you walk, you are aware that you are walking, that you legs are moving, your leg muscles are working etc. After you have mastered bringing all the physical action to your conscious mind, the next step is to examine the thoughts. Follow what you think moment-by-moment bringing awareness to your thoughts without any judgment. You just observe but don’t give out any opinions like Oh this is bad or oh this is good etc. When the thoughts run off to the future or the past bring it back gently to the present moment. The practice should not be overdone as we can slowly and steady improve in this practice. Buddha himself recommends the middle path, a path of moderation away from the extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification.

Personally when I started this mindfulness meditation, I didn’t feel any change in the first few days. Why I am saying this is because beginners should not be discouraged in the initial period for the lack of any concrete results. One has to have an attitude of reverence for this practice and continue practicing this till he attains the next stage. This is a highly beneficial practice but someone before us has suffered immensely to find this wonderful technique. You and me never found this practice and its benefits and hence reverence is needed.

Buddhist literature says this is the pathway to salvation, the complete nirvana. But none of us want nirvana or anything close to that. But why would we practice this mindfulness. Well, only when you practice for a few weeks you will understand the beauty of this meditation. It reduces all the stress in your life and makes you enjoy all the senses in the fullest range. How many times we eat without really enjoying the taste of the food. Mindfulness meditation will make you enjoy the taste as never before as you will consciously become aware of the taste and the smell of the food. To be frank the practice was initially practiced not to gratify the senses but by people living an ascetic life despising every sort of sensual pleasure. Buddha recommends this practice for bringing the mind to stillness. The practice eventually will lead to an understanding of our true nature ‘who we are’. I don’t want to go deeper in this aspect. I am not an expert in it and nor have I experienced anything of this sort as I am a beginner.

Anyway for us all beginners, you start noticing that the food starts tasting better. Your life is one of harmony and peace. You sleep better and everything is fine in your little world. Hope this little article has raised your curiosity about the mindfulness meditation and encourages you to look up more about this age-old meditation. Hope this article changes your life to a little bit better than it was before you read this article

Tuesday, December 14, 2010
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