I have been practicing mindfulness meditation for almost 30 years, originally inspired by psychotherapist, Eugene Gendlin, Ph.D. I ‘drop’ into mindfulness meditation throughout the waking hours, as well as maintain a formal meditation practice at the beginning, or end of each day.
Jon Kabat-Zinn is one of my primary inspirations for the practice of mindfulness. He is perhaps the person most responsible for bringing Eastern meditation into medical institutions. Kabat-Zinn is an American professor emeritus of medicine, and the creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
He compares mindfulness meditation to what professional musicians do before they perform. “Tuning your instrument before you take it out on the road.” Before all of his talks, he asks the audience to meditate with him for just five minutes, he feels as though it changes the frenetic energy that many of us carry throughout the day.
A sampling of his beliefs and concepts include:
- Giving up wanting anything to happen at all except paying attention to the present moment.
- Stop for a fraction of a second and drop into “being.” Drop into your own mind.
- Mindfulness is an adventure into finding out who you really are.
- You cannot think your way into how this will go, you are always here, you are never there.
- Goals-if we don’t know ‘here’ then getting ‘there’ will not be as full.
- Get out of your own way and not just see the projections of another onto you. Don’t believe the stories we tell ourselves about who we are. You are not the sum total of what you think.
- In this culture, we are doers, always thinking ahead and trying to accomplish many tasks everyday. Plans and goals are valuable, but we only have Now in which our lives are unfolding. Inhabit the ‘now’ with increased awareness and no judgment.
Kabat-Zinn encourages us to “befriend” our mind. The whole point is to cultivate ‘beginners mind’ or ‘don’t know mind’ from moment to moment. Feel the breath, don’t think about it, approach gently, just drop in. It’s not about the breath, it’s about the awareness. Even if your mind wanders, bring it back, you still have now. No agenda, just this moment in awareness.
Mindfulness is simple but not easy. “The mind is so unruly. Just stop and be. Rest in awareness”. Kabat-Zinn calls it “awarenessing.” Real meditation never comes to an end because it’s your life. Showing up is not trivial. The real practice is your life.
You can ‘drop in’ to mindfulness as you move through life, but Kabat-Zinn is also a proponent of formal meditation as an anchor. Even if it’s just for a few minutes am or pm. He believes our physical and mental health is dependent upon our ability to calm our nervous system and settle the mind.
Mindfulness has transformed my life, and I encourage my clients to be receptive to its usefulness in their lives.