Last week I attended a retreat called Mindfulness in Education. Its logo was “Happy Teachers will change the world”. It was conducted by a group of Buddhist monks, including their teacher “Thay” in Vietnamese, Thich Nhat Hanh. Not really a religion, it is a way of life…being mindful, compassionate and understanding to yourself and in all you do. There is no god or deity. Roy Sano, a Methodist Bishop says “When I converted to Christianity I wondered how I could still be a Buddhist. As time goes by I now wonder how I can be a Christian and not be a Buddhist!”
Completely secularizing meditation, it becomes a way of training the mind to “pay attention” to the here and now. After all, this moment is the ONLY moment you have to feel joy and happiness, it is the ONLY moment you can act. Yesterday is gone; tomorrow might never be…so PAY ATTENTION is the message! Paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, nonjudgmentally is the practice.
Working from The University of Massachusetts Medical School, Jon Kabat-Zinn, PH.D., began Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction programs after attending a retreat with Thich Nahat Hanh. The evidence-based research is mounting…the benefits for mental health, stress relief, burnout, physical illness…it is a powerful tool in the alternative medicine tool box for fibromyalgia, cancer treatment, and more.
“Stopping, calming, and resting are preconditions for healing.”
Thich Nhat Hanh
Further research has looked at people with meditation experience. One study looked at Tibetan monks and found increased brain development that led to better attention and increased mood. A study of lay meditators found gray matter loss, an increase in cognitive flexibility and attention skills, increased mood, and improved immunity over the control groups.
Research in the field of education is being done as well. Impacting stress relief, social learning skills, ADD/ADHD, and academic scores, and more.
Guided Breathing Exercise
(Inspired by Identifying the Breath Lesson Plan from Plumvillage.org)
Sit comfortably, away from distractions if possible. Shoulders relaxed, eyes closed if you like. Breathe normally, focusing all of your attention on your breath. Sometimes it helps to feel the cooling of your nostrils as you breathe in and the warming of your nostrils as you breathe out; or watch a point of light move from the tip of your nose, to your belly button and back. With each breath, say to yourself:
Breathing in, I know I’m breathing in
Breathing out, I know I’m breathing out
Breathing in, in
Breathing out, out
Breathing in, I smile at myself
Breathing out, I relax my body
Breathing in, I smile
Breathing out, I relax
Feel the peace penetrate every cell of your body. Smile. With practice your mind will get better at taming that “monkey brain” that leaps from one thought to the next, or that “gorilla brain” that beats you up or stays stuck in mud mind/stinkin-thinkin. When this happens, see it, don’t judge it, just say hello and let it go. Bring your attention back to your breath. And smile.
Find a set time (or times) to do it, and as well as possible, stick with it. Find what works for you. YouTube is full of guided meditations that you can test to see which mode works for you. There are many other modes, such as walking meditation, eating meditation, gardening meditation, knitting meditation and tai chi. Many repetitive activities lend themselves to this deep looking, focusing of attention on the here and now.
Living Joyously Tip for the Day:
There is no tomorrow, there is no yesterday…there is only this one moment in time!
Evidence Based Research
Thich Nhat Hanh – http://plumvillage.org/
Jon Kabat-Zinn: Cultivating Mindfulness: Beginning or Deepening a Personal Meditation Practice. http://www.mindfulnesscds.com/meditate_cultivate.pdf