A lot has been written in the past few years about Mindfulness Meditation. This Buddhist based practice has become popular here in the west through the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program founded by Jon Kabat Zinn. Research clearly shows that meditating changes the neural pathways of the brain and aids in relieving stress and pain.
“Mindfulness is paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentaly”~ Jon Kabat Zinn
Initially it begins with coming into a comfortable seated position and bringing awareness and observation of bodily sensations, most often the breath. The breath is the anchor for concentrating the mind.
The tradition in Yoga however, is different. As a yoga teacher, I have also learned other methods of meditation that can be practiced. Not everyone will find Mindfulness Meditation a good fit. But it doesn’t mean you have to give up on being mindful or meditation.
The key is to find the anchor that works for you.
How we breathe is directly connected to how we are feeling emotionally. If we sit to meditate in an already anxious state, we may become stressed when we realize our breath is short and jagged, or in our upper chest. In these circumstances, using the breath as an anchor is unlikely to work initially.
In the yoga tradition of Patanjali, there are two parts in meditation before we attain the ultimate state of enlightened bliss, where we shed our mind’s conditioning and connect to the infinite oneness of the universe. (Samadhi)
It starts with concentrating and focusing the mind (Dharana). The next part is being able to sustain uninterrupted meditation (Dhyana).
The anchor is usually something we connect to through our senses. It can be an external sound or an internal mantra repeated over and over. It can be a smell, or the feel of something in your hand, or the feel of sun on your body. It can be gazing at an object in front of you or a meaningful image in your mind. It can be focusing on a movement, a posture, or a particular part of your body. There are so many possibilities to explore.
Its all about focusing the mind and training it to concentrate on one thing.
As the mind wanders, which is naturally will, we bring it back to the anchor, and bring our full attention there.
Meditation is not about having a blank mind, its about bringing awareness, again and again back to the anchor or object of focus. Through this practice, over time, the mind is trained to recognize and let go of thoughts.
When we let go of our thinking we create space. In this space, we become witnesses to our inner life and the world around us. We begin to feel a connection to ourselves and a sense of Oneness.