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What is Mindfulness Meditation and How it Helped Me

Updated on August 3, 2014

Mindfulness

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What is Mindfulness Meditation?

What is Mindfulness can be a difficult question to answer, but as someone who went from knowing nothing about it to being a very happy practitioner, I feel I am in an excellent position (and state of mind) to explain exactly what Mindfulness is and what the benefits of a life that includes a little of it every day means.

Mindfulness to me is being aware of every moment, bringing an awareness to how it feels to be in your body and to be alive, and with that comes a sense of peace and acceptance with the world. Although there are other aspects to mindfulness , and other ways to practise mindfulness, mindfulness meditation is a major component to achieving and practising mindfulness.

Mindfulness meditation is about learning to be still, quiet your mind and stop thinking about all the things that have happened or will happen and live in the moment, accepting who you are and where you are. By doing this you reconnect with your body and achieve an inner peace that I never thought possible.

This may all sound a bit like gobbledygook to you, and I guess there was a time that it would have to me too, but this is how I found peace and happiness and I know you can too! Please...read on...

The Buddha's Brain

Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom
Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom

"Buddha's Brain" is really easy to read with very clear explanations of how and why mindfulness meditation works and it has some great simple exercises to get you started. It is the book that got me started on the road to inner peace and the one that I have both given and recommended to my friends.

 

Every Journey Begins with the First Step

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How did I find Peace and Happiness? My Personal Path.

I found mindfulness meditation completely by accident. I was the victim of bullying and I had gone to my doctor because I was so depressed and stressed I felt I could not cope with another day. It was then that I saw the sign...


A sign that said "Are you feeling stressed or depressed, and unable to cope with life?". Mentally I said YES! so I read on. A local health clinic was running a programme of Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) or essentially mindfulness meditation for the management of stress . An eight week programme free of charge, explicitly designed to help people manage the stress of daily life. Well, where do I sign up?

And I did. I embarked on an eight week course of MBSR or mindfulness meditation with the explicit purpose of managing my stress levels . Did it work? Hell yes! Want to know how to find peace and happiness for yourself? Then you'll have to read on.

Ruby Wax - Comedian and Mindfulness Advocate

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The Ruby Wax Story

Mindfulness is a cure for depression.

If you have ever watched comedian Ruby Wax play the fool in one of her shows or on TV you would never believe it, but it is true. Ruby Wax has suffered from severe depression her whole life, and her depression at times left her completely unable to get out of bed!

But after spending a fortune on shrinks and attending clinics, Ruby Wax now says that the solution to her depression is all in the mind. After deciding that there must be a better way, Ruby herself researched how the mind works and discovered mindfulness. Ruby says mindfulness has changed her life.

Ruby has just written a book "Sane New World: Taming the Mind" which she describes as a manual to help everybody learn how our brains function and how to retrain the mind.

Sane New World
Sane New World

In her own unique way Ruby Wax describes how mindfulness changed her life. Find out how mindfulness cured her depression and quieted her overactive mind, giving her a new perspective on life.

 

Top 3 Tips

Breathe

Practice Body Scans

Use Guidance Tools to Learn the Basic Techniques

How to Meditate. A quick guide to learning Mindfulness Meditation.

Learning how to meditate and finding the time to meditate can be difficult. In today's society where we are rushing from one task to another, constantly thinking about what needs to be done, making plans in our mind, around constant disruptions from the TV or the phone and the constant connection to the internet, it's hard to stop and do.... nothing but breathing! And that's what meditation is.


What is breathing? To start off easy, in our first Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programme session we learnt to sit for just a few minutes and concentrate on our breathing. When I say concentrate on breathing, I mean sitting still and being conscious of how our body feels when we breathe. The air rushing in and out of the mouth and throat, how the chest rises and falls and the abdomen pushing in and out. How strange it is that we need to have an exercise to bring our attention back to the most important activity of life, but we do!

The second week had us practicing the body scan. If you're not familiar with this, the body scan is an exercise where you progress through each body part, concentrating on it and being conscious of how that part of the body feels. We were given a recording which we were to practise with every day (45 mins / day) and I was amazed at how attuned I became to my body and aware of the connection between my mind and my body.

This led very quickly to learning how to meditate. Meditation is an extension of the body scan and involves sitting rather than lying and being able to quiet the mind without always having to concentrate on a part of the body. Initially the meditations were guided; at MBSR programme sessions the leader talked us through the meditation and at home we were given recordings to listen to.

If you want to learn how to meditate then here is my advice. Start with a good book which includes meditation exercises and uses guided meditation aids such as CD's. Once you have mastered the technique then the books and aids are no longer required.

A 10 Minute Body Scan

How does Mindfulness Meditation Work?

I had no idea what mindfulness meditation was before I started. I had heard of meditation, but that was something Buddhist monks or new age hippies did! After trying mindfulness meditation and finding that it brought me the tools to manage my stress and find the peace and happiness that I was looking for I read more to find out why.

I have included the books and tools that I found useful in this article. These are bona fide recommendations from me.

As I understand it, mindfulness meditation stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system. This results in a feeling of calm, peace and well being, and has the knock on effect of increased concentration. Prayer and meditation are not that far apart and actually prayer has the same effect on the parasympathetic nervous system. It explains why people continue to follow religion...but I have gotten slightly off track.

A Mindfulness Meditation Taster with the Expert Jon Kabat-Zinn

How I Learnt to Meditate on Demand

After the eight week Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) meditation programme, I continued to meditate for 45 minutes most days. At the beginning I used only the guided meditations, I found when I tried to meditate without a CD my mind would wander or I would fall asleep (I believe this is one way the mind tries to deal with doing nothing, until you get used to meditating).

Over time, I became much more used to meditating and I progressed to the meditation CD's which rang a bell at the start, at the 10 minute intervals and at the end. First I started with the 10 minute, and then progressed to the 20 minute and 30 minute versions.

Once I had meditated for some weeks, I started to feel what they call a baseline feeling of calm and inner peace. I became attuned to my body and I become quickly aware of those stressful situations which started to take me away from this baseline of calmness. At those times, when I felt the tension start in my muscles, I took the opportunity to take a 3 minute breathing break. This is exactly what it sounds like, you take a quick time out to concentrate on your breathing, and in doing so you bring back the baseline.

How do I meditate now? Well, now I meditate regularly and almost anywhere, on a bus, train or plane, sitting at home or in a hotel room, whenever I have time or feel that my mental state is moving from my baseline. If I am with someone, I can reduce my meditation to a breathing break, which will return my calmness until I am able to meditate for longer.

There is no doubt mindfulness meditation has helped me find my inner peace and happiness.

Mindfulness for Dummies

Mindfulness For Dummies (Book + CD)
Mindfulness For Dummies (Book + CD)

A step by step guide to mindfulness. Comes complete with a CD that covers 9 different meditations including the all important body scan and a version of walking meditation.

 

It's not all about a Jolly Fatman

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Is Mindfulness about following Buddha?

Mindfulness , as I explain it here, is a mental technique for bringing happiness and peace into your life by altering your mental state. But the basis of mindfulness does come from Buddha's teachings.

Want to know about Buddha? Buddha believed that it was very important to achieve mindfulness or awareness on the path to enlightenment and one of the seven factors needed to receive enlightenment, thus it was the 7th element of the noble eightfold path.

Jon Kabat-Zinn took mindfulness from Buddhist teachings, mixed it with Western Science and developed the Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programme. MBSR is an eight week course designed to combat stress, pain and illness by using moment-to-moment awareness.

Jon Kabat-Zinn founded the Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School specifically to teach mindfulness meditation as a technique to help people cope with stress, anxiety, pain and illness. This is the mindfulness meditation of which I speak, it has nothing to do with religion.

From the Mindfulness Expert - Jon Kabat-Zinn

Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the Present Moment--and Your Life
Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the Present Moment--and Your Life

World renowned expert and teacher of the techniques involved in practising mindfulness meditation. Learn directly from Jon Kabat-Zinn who is a professor of medicine emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and author of multiple books on the subject.

 

The Devils in the Detail

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What Happens When People Don't Understand Mindfulness

Warstler Elementary school shuts down mindfulness programme after parent complaints

This week I lost my inner calm and I got mad, real mad...at the stupidity of people! Why you ask? Well I read an article about Warstler Elementary school in Ohio where the complaints of parents had shut down their mindfulness programme. The fact that the school board had shut it down in itself was concerning, the complaints of what appears to be just the minority of parents has determined the outcome for all of the children at Warstler Elementary and other Elementary schools in the district. What happened to democracy?

But the really galling part of this story, is that the mindfulness programme at Warstler Elementary had been having brilliant results. The test scores of the children had improved and the school had reported reduced behavioural issues. In short, mindfulness was benefitting the children, the teachers, the school and even the parents. I myself have experienced first hand the benefits of mindfulness but I had never before seen the benefits proven so elegantly in the test scores and behaviour of our children, our future society. So I can't understand why you would ignore the evidence and campaign to have the sole reason for the improvement stopped.

Apparently the root cause of the complaints is a misguided notion that mindfulness is a religion. It is not. Mindfulness meditation may be practised as part of the Buddhist religion, but mindfulness itself is not religious. It is not praying to a god or adopting someone else's belief system. Mindfulness is only about breathing, clearing your mind, and reconnecting with your body - all physiological exercises which are linked to physiological processes in the body and the brain and now have proven physiological and psychological benefits.

Religion has a lot to answer for, but why are we also letting it dampen the bright future of our children. How a parent can see the initial positive results of the mindfulness programme and campaign against it, only because of some tenuous link to a religion (who did not invent meditation by the way, only realised the potential mental benefits of it and encouraged its followers to practice), I will never understand.

What are your Thoughts on Meditation

Is Meditation just for Buddhist Monks and New Age Hippies?

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Peace and Happiness - A Journey

You can find peace in the most unlikely places.
You can find peace in the most unlikely places. | Source

Peace and Happiness - You can't have one, without the other.

The word happiness may not quite be the right word to explain the state of mind that you achieve with mindfulness meditation. Content is a better word.


Mindfulness meditation will not make you happy in the sense that you will go around laughing every day. That's not what it's about, and it's not feasible to think that you can be laugh out loud happy every day of your life. Unfortunately sometimes bad things happen and you will be sad.

What is peace? Mindfulness meditation will give you peace; a sense of calmness and control which will enable you to accept and deal with any situation, even sad times. In being able to deal with the difficult aspects of life better, you gain a sense of real inner peace.

This inner peace will make you as happy as you can be in the life that you lead. As I say, this does not mean that you will suddenly have a life of only happiness, but you will have the tools you need to be able to accept and be content with the life that you lead and have peace and happiness even when it doesn't turn out exactly how you had planned.

I Discovered Mindfulness with an 8 Week Programme

Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World
Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World

Investing the time and effort in mindfulness to truly understand it will reap benefits that you will carry with you throughout your life.

 

What are your thoughts on Mindfulness Meditation?

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      Dani 3 years ago

      I must say I've always been skeptical of meditation or anything new age, but this does sound different. Thank you for sharing your experience of mindfulness and opening my eyes. Maybe one day I'll get brave enough to give it a try...

    • TedWritesStuff profile image
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      Ted 3 years ago from The World

      I highly recommend it. I have seen the results and it works. Be brave ;-).

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 2 years ago from london

      Excellent article on Mindfullness, as well as some very good pointers for others. God bless your selfless approach. Much Mehta.

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 2 years ago from London England

      Comedienne and social commentator Ruby Wax is my new mentor. I thought she had disappeared from the scene entirely but since finding her on her own website, Ruby Wax never went away! I'm particularly keen with her annecdote 'Be the master of your mind, not it's slave.' Further developments as they come in.

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