Monday, February 7, 2011

Coming to Our Senses - A Meditation Review

Recently I've been trying to get into some meditation (this might be a kinda boring blog - sorry!). I've always enjoyed guided meditations and when we used to do some guided imagery before big meets (mostly flexing and relaxing various muscles in your body to relax yourself). It's been something that's super relaxing for me so I want to see if I can get motivated and add it in as a regular part of my life. I knew about a couple general techniques/ideas but I wanted to try to get more specifics. Recently, an author named John Kabat-Zinn was recommended to me. I was able to get his book Coming to Our Senses out of the library. Now this is a big honkin book on meditation, so I decided to stick to Part 4 - Embracing Formal Practice. Here's a bit of what I learned.

First, several basic forms of meditation that I was already kind of aware of were discussed. These includeded lying down, sitting, standing and walking. Most of these were based on the same premise of focusing on a feeling (hearing, touch, breathing, gravity, etc) and trying to stay aware of that sensation only. A key idea is that the mind is always going to wander, and that you should be aware of that and then bring it back into focus. Another option is to be aware of all of these at once and experience the state of being. No matter what, all thoughts should come and go without judgement. It's a thought, that's it. It doesn't define you or an event or who you are. It's just a thought.

In the lying section, Kabat-Zinn describes a method called the body scan, which was similar to what we used to do for swimming (flexing and relaxing each body part). He also briefly discussed yoga and the meditative benefits of different flows and how they combine breathing and the mind. It's something I still in theory would like to incorporate but never have fully taken that leap.

Several obstacles to meditation were addressed. The two that were most releavant to me were falling asleep and motivation. I think I tend to like the ideas of sitting or standing meditation the best to address the first issue. As for motivation, I like his idea of "meditate like your life depends on it." In other words, don't let it be an option. Be dedicated. I can/do get super dedicated to other areas of my life, so I should be able to do it here if I just make myself. Finally there was the concept that you can't really be doing it wrong. No matter what, if you're aware of what's going on, then you're being mindful and you're doing it right. Can't mess up? Sounds good to me!

Lovingkindness meditation was a new and kind of bizzare sounding one to me honestly. The idea is to first get focused in on your breathing. When you're good with that, try to imagine someone that loves you unconditionally or what that would feel like. Then, you try to embody that emotion and apply it to yourself. In the example of a mother-child relationship, you become both the mother and the child simultaneously. You then repeat a series of phrases:
May I be safe and protected and free from inner and outer harm.
May I be happy and contented.
May I be healthy and whole to whatever degree possible.
May I experience the ease of well being.
After you get comfortable applying this to yourself, you work on applying it to love ones and then people further and further out of your circle of comfort. I think it will probably feel cheesy at first but would be a cool exercise to get in the habit of.

So yes, I guess that's my summary of the 75 pages or so that I read on meditation. Primarily the notes are for myself but maybe I've piqued your interest and you'll want to consider adding meditation into your life as well? I'll definitely do an update at some point to say how things are going!