Mindfulness meditation has gained attention to reduce stress, calm the mind and emotions, and in many cases can help relieve pain. Mindfulness meditation is simple in theory, we take the time and energy to pay attention to our sensations and emotions. Jon Kabat Zinn, the founder of Mind Body Stress Reduction has called this giving ourselves loving kindness.
In the current moment, we certainly need some loving kindness. The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way we spend our days. Due to the restrictions in our lives, and worrying about the state of the world, there has been an explosion in stress and pain in so many people. And many of us are not able to have access to our normal activities that help relieve stress. We miss the connection with others. The normal routines.
Mindfulness is a practice that you can do anywhere and therefore, is made for doing at home (at least when the kids are sleeping). I will frequently recommend mindfulness mediation for my patients with chronic pain, insomnia, digestive issues, and unease. I find it can help calm and reduce many types of pain, particularly helpful for those with chronic pelvic pain syndrome.
The goal of mindfulness meditation is not to get you to stay healthy. The goal of mindfulness meditation is to be mindful in itself. The health benefits come along with it. It’s not often we engage in an activity without a specific goal. This gives us time to be and through being we enhance our care, tenderness, and love for ourselves.
There are many schools and approaches to mindfulness meditation. I like the Mind Body Stress Reduction (MBSR) because it is accessible, non-religious, and everyone can do it. It centers on you paying attention to your body and sensations to train the mind. This school was founded by Jon Kabat Zinn who has many recordings and lectures on mindfulness.
How to practice mindfulness:
Mindfulness meditation, like all good things in life, takes practice. One of the amazing lessons is that it is not about just sitting and breathing. Mindfulness is a way of being conscious of our whole selves and experiences. It is normal that during the practice your mind wanders. Gently bring it back to focus.
There are many good resources out there to get started.
I like the website FreeMindfulness.org which has a wide variety of meditations.
One of my favorites is the meditation on the breath called Body Scan by Vidyamala Burch, Breathworks. It’s about 15 minutes which is a good length to start and focuses on feeling the breath. Because you’re conscious of the breath and the diaphragm, it helps encourage diaphragmatic breathing. This meditation can be found in the body scan section. For a longer one the Body Scan I like the one by Keiren Fleck.
If you are ready to take a full eight week MBSR course, there are teachers all over. There is a wonderful consortium here in New York. There is also a free online course which has all of the eight weeks of the meditation as well as a wide array of other resources.
For those who like to listen to podcasts, the Rubin Museum has a wonderful meditation podcast with a wide host of teachers.
Start with a regular practice and understand it is not easy. But gradually you will improve and become more adept at finding your focus.