Saturday, June 26, 2010

A note on mindfulness meditation

Introduction:

Mindfulness meditation is a deceptively simple practice and yet very useful.
Neuroscientists and behaviorists(google MBSR, MBCT to know more) find it greatly helps people who are stressed out and also people suffering from anxiety based disorders (OCD, etc). I personally overcame OCD through mindfulness meditation 7 years back.

Mindfulness meditation can also help people in general manage their stress levels and keep them grounded. Mindfulness meditation is definitely helping me with managing stress in grad school.
Ofcourse, meditation in general(of any kind) is a very useful thing to do on a daily basis. However, mindfulness meditation is especially useful for people who find it difficult to concentrate.

Here's a simple practice:

1) Sit down some place - On the chair or on the ground.
2) Gently scan your body from head to toe and as you do this mental scan, feel your body relax - You can also say the word 'Relax' in your mind as you do the scan.
3) Now, keep your eyes open and just observe the sensations going around you
- These sensations could be the sound of a car outside, the groaning of the refrigerator, your own THOUGHTS, itching sensations in the body - The whole idea is to passively observe these sensations. As far as possible, observe these sensations without making any judgements in your mind. Think of yourself as a passive spectator observing these sensations around you.
Don't try to curb your thoughts or even guide them. Let them run through. You are just a passive spectator.
4) If you are comfortable with this process of passive observation, you can begin doing it with your eyes closed.

Some Comments:
You will slowly notice that as you are going on with this passive observation, you become more relaxed and grounded. Your passive observation process will bring to light the restless nature of the mind!!! Your thoughts might be flying high in your mind, yet you feel more relaxed than before. With practice, the thoughts will also start to settle down.

When I began this practice 2 years back - My thoughts were going zip,zap,zoom. But the interesting thing was, my thoughts would settle down slowly as I became regular at my practice.
As the days went by, I found that my mind was starting to calm down quicker.
A few months later, I had a meditation session, where my mind settled down quickly and the peace thereafter was wonderful. There was a sea of change from the mind I began with and the mind I was experiencing a few months later. However, to sustain this calmness, I found that a regular practice is essential. For me a daily meditation practice is indispensable in keeping me grounded through the rigors of graduate school. The feeling of release of stress when I meditate before going to bed is wonderful. If you are reading this sentence, I highly recommend this meditation practice(or any suitable meditation practice that you are attracted to).


Duration:
You can begin with 10 minutes. And as you progress, you can increase the duration depending on your comfort levels. I have time for about 30 minutes of meditation everyday morning and night.

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