Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Leaves - Mindfulness Meditation

Oh, there are so many things that I want to share now.

I think a description and discussion of my mindfulness practice will come first, largely because of how helpful it has been overall in life.  Seriously, if you practice no other kind of meditation, if you put forth no other effort to clean or inspect your consciousness, if you embrace no other type of spirituality, try mindfulness meditation.  Twenty minutes a day; it's like exercise for your psyche.  You CAN find the time for it, most days.

Sit down, be comfortable, try to sit cross-legged with your ankles lower than your tail bone (which generally means sitting with your rear end on a pillow or cushion and have your feet on the floor).  Close your eyes (optionally, focusing them upwards towards your forehead, but really, you can just let them rest), and breathe deeply.  Pay attention to your breath.  To help make things even easier, pay attention to one specific spot, preferably your diaphram or solar plexus.

Do this for twenty minutes.  Set an alarm or something.

It's tough at first.  Early on in regular practice you'll get bored and wonder what time it is.  You'll want to fidget, you'll want to get up and move.

You WILL think of other things.  This is absolutely inevitable.  When you think of something other than the gentle, calm motion of your diaphragm, move your attention back to it.  That's all you need to do.  Don't get frustrated by the fact that you are thinking of other things; that's part of the process.  Any time something else comes to mind, gently re-direct your attention to your diaphragm, and to your breathing.  I often use the imagery of being a rock in the river, letting the thoughts slip past me, and focus on being the rock.  Once the thoughts stop trying to slip past me, I let the river and being the rock slip past me.  It's that simple.

Except when it isn't.

I've observed over time that my mind likes to play tricks.  One of the ones that has come up recently has been, "All right, you're done, time's up!" without the alarm having gone off.  I'm not sure where that one is coming from.

Another one is the miniature dreams.  Once I had a pretty good grasp on controlling my conscious thoughts, I would start getting spontaneous visions and dream sequences.  As soon as I recognize them as such, I go back to my diaphragm and my focus of attention.  Sometimes these sequences are wild, and I've had the urge to record them, but a voice within me suggests that that is not a good idea; that holding on to these images and dreams would be counterproductive because part of what I am doing with them is releasing them.

There are numerous articles online and in books, both new age and sooooper sciencey, that speak about the benefits of basic meditation practice.  I'm going to make myself unpopular here by arguing one thing that a lot of the fluffier articles state: that ANYTHING that you do can be meditation.  Don't feel like sitting around breathing (such articles will state), no worries, put on your headphones and walk the dog!  Sit and read a good book!  Make some tea and watch TV.  Anything that you do that is relaxing is as good as meditation.

The problem is, neither serious spiritual practitioners nor the serious scientific research behind meditation back these things up.  The practice that I describe here is the most basic and simple form of meditation, and there are far more advanced and complex versions that I've taken part in in the past, including ones involving guided imagery, physical motion, and music, but a lot of the activities that are suggested as alternatives (hey, I ride a bike, that's the same as meditating!) do not involve the conscious focus/lack of focus, the mindfulness, that a regular, disciplined meditative practice has.

As I rebuild my spiritual practice I am working hard at starting from the ground up again.  Mindfulness seems to be the way to go.  I've got other things going on, but as long as I spend a little time in mindfulness and a little time attempting to make a spiritual connection during the day I don't feel that I've fallen behind.

Try incorporating it into your practice.  It's like brushing your teeth, combing your hair, and eating your greens for your pysche.  The differences will be nearly immediately visible, and after a while, you'll notice if you haven't gotten your daily dose of mindfulness.

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