Friday, April 15, 2011

Some Hippy-Dippy Who-Ha

Talkin' about good ol' meditation. 

Typically the people I speak with about meditation fall into one of two categories, overwhelmed or disinterested.

I understand that approaching meditation can be intimidating. I speak with so many people that share their interest in the practice, but don't know where or how to begin. You look up meditation online and a slew of links to dense Buddhist texts and aesthetically challenged sites pop up. You have heard about the benefits, but can't find an outlet/book/teacher that feels right for you. 

On the other end of the spectrum exists disinterest or somewhat disgust with the practice. I've heard it described as something boring and dull. Who wants to stare at a candle when I could be out doing something else? Isn't meditation just useless byproduct of psychedelic culture? I'm an intelligent, educated person and I feel like I know myself pretty well, what do I need with chanting and sitting on a little pillow? 

I get it. Trust me. Before I began a regular yoga practice and study I saw the concepts of meditation and mindfulness as somewhat new-agey, hippy-dippy stuff myself. I didn't really get it and I didn't particularly have any desire to. Then I read Jon Kabat-Zinn's Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life and my perspective completely shifted. I was able to separate meditation from the culture surrounding it and see it for the practical and amazing practice that it is, no full lotus on a mountain top required. I learned that we can experience our lives more fully if we calm down, get some perspective on our place in the world, and appreciate everything as it is. It's common sense really, but it is something so easy to disregard.

There are many, many forms and styles of meditation, but at it's purest form it exists as a means to tap into ourselves and enrich our lives. You don't need anything special to begin the practice, only yourself. Kabat-Zinn promotes the idea of mindfulness or non-doing. Daily mindfulness, whether its focusing on your breathing while you do the dishes or appreciating the stillness of a moment without forcing action is meditation.

"Non-doing has nothing to do with being indolent or passive. Quite the contrary. It takes great courage and energy to cultivate non-doing, both in stillness and in activity. Nor is it easy to make a special time for non-doing and to keep at it in the face of everything in our lives which needs to be done."

I'd like to offer a place to begin for those who are interested or introduce a resource for those already practicing meditation. Mindfulness as a practice has brought so much into my life and I believe the way Jon Kabat-Zinn describes it in his books makes it incredibly grounded and applicable. If you are looking for a place to start, start here. It's relatable, it's interesting, and the benefits are truly amazing.


"The habit of ignoring our present moments in favor of others yet to come leads directly to a pervasive lack of awareness of the web of life in which we are embedded. This includes a lack of awareness and understanding of our own mind and how it influences our perceptions and our actions. It severely limits our perspective on what it means to be a person and how we are connected to each other and the world around us. Religion has traditionally been the domain of such fundamental inquiries within a spiritual framework, but mindfulness has little to do with religion, except in the most fundamental meaning of the word, as an attempt to appreciate the deep mystery of being alive and to acknowledge being vitally connected to all that exists."
- Jon Kabat-Zinn

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