Guest Blog By Kyle Ruffin
If like me, you read the book and/or saw the movie “Eat. Pray. Love.” — you may have gotten the impression that meditation is a lot of work! References made to the daily reciting of the ancient yogic text “Bhagavad Gita” made it seem like school work memorization. It looked very nice and clearly beneficial for Elizabeth Gilbert, but not for me! Just another to-do list item that I can live without. Thank you very much!
Then I took a Mindful Stress Reduction class, and meditation was at its core. There were no mantra’s or memorization. There was no ancient language. I learned that at its most basic, meditation is about doing nothing. It’s about stopping our racing mind long enough for it to clear and function more efficiently. I can do that. I can do “nothing.” Or can I?
The facilitator (shout out to Hope Honeyman) introduced us to Jon Kabat-Zinn’s breath and body scan meditations which – as you might imagine – are all about focusing on the breath and the sensation of being in your body. The biggest challenge was keeping our minds from going back to our insane to-do lists, our questions about “what if,” and our “Monkey Mind” that constantly chatters away in our heads. The only learning required was learning how to silence the chatter by focusing, refocusing and focusing again on breath and the task of “being” NOT “doing.” Each time I pushed my “to do list” out of my head, I could feel the tension melt away with it. It felt like my brain thawing after a long freeze.
We did outdoor walking meditations – taking slow deliberate steps, feeling the ground beneath our feet and scanning our bodies from head to toe, becoming aware of how each body part felt at that moment. We did an eating meditation. Too often we gobble down our food, never taking the time to enjoy the flavors and sensations of the things we crave. There’s all kinds of evidence that says people who practice mindful eating eat less because they enjoy their food more.
Just closing your eyes and listening to everything within earshot is a great mediation – shutting out everything else is a way to train your mind to focus.
My favorite was Kabat-Zinn’s body scan meditation, which always left me feeling centered, calm and able to complete full sentences in a single bound. That’s my demon, my mind races so much that I forget my point before I get to the end of my sentence. We live in a “what’s next” society, rushing ahead in our minds and rarely, if ever, enjoying where we are right now – even when we’re doing something we love. We wonder why we don’t enjoy life as much — why we need more and more stimulation and stuff to make us happy. I’m here to tell you there is a cure. It’s free, non-invasive and requires no prescription.
At the end of the 8-week program, the women along for this great journey raved about how much better life was after incorporating meditation and awareness to their every day existence. Blood pressure was lower. Reactions were calmer. Attitudes were more positive and coping skills were more integrated.
Wanna try it out? Here’s a little dose. After reading this, get into a comfortable supported position. Close your eyes. Relax your face and shoulders. Then focus on nothing else but the coolness of your breath entering your nostrils and the warmth of your breath as it exits. Take 20 long breaths. When your mind starts racing, shut it down. It’s okay — the to-do list will be there when you’re done. But more importantly, you’ll have restored and refreshed your mind in ways that will put that to-do list in perspective and make tackling it much easier. I guarantee it!
IF YOU WANT MORE…
Search online for “free guided meditations,” or check out Jon Kabat Zinn’s Guided Mindfulness Meditation – which offers 4 meditations that are great for beginners.
If you’re in the South Jersey area and want to learn more about Mindful Stress Reduction classes, contact Hope Honeyman, LCSW.