Mindfulness Meditation – Overview
By Kenny L
“It may be a period of time, but by 2050 I believe mental exercise will be understood as being as important as physical exercise,” says top neurologist Richard Davidson. At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, his team of researchers found that mindfulness meditation can literally change the brain. “The work was framed within the research on neuro-plasticity, the understanding that the brain is built to change in response to experience,” he explained. Davidson noted that natural meditation can ease pain, improve concentration, lower blood pressure and treat depression. Brain scans reveal that those who meditate have increased gray matter in parts of the brain associated with attention and emotional sensitivity.
Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche comes from a long distinguished lineage of Buddhist meditation masters. “Mindfulness Meditation Exercises are simple and completely feasible. Just by sitting and doing nothing, we are doing a tremendous amount,” he explains. To get started, he suggests creating a favorable environment to make it easier to practice. There should be a sacredness about one’s place of meditation. Mindfulness meditation is best undertaken in a place of silence that is not too disturbing. Some people create special alcoves in the home with candles, plants, yoga mats and fountains, where they can be at peace to meditate each day. Others retreat to their gardens, an uplifting place of respite. Another group of people prefer the company of other like-minded individuals at a special meditation center.
In that comfortable place, one should begin mindfulness meditation with the proper posture. It seems that lying down would be the most comfortable position, but that is not how meditation works. A meditation teacher will instead instruct pupils to sit upright, with hands resting palm-down on the thighs and hips straight. Some people who meditate sit on a zafu or gomden cushion on the floor, with their legs crossed. Others prefer to sit upright in a chair, with their feet touching the ground. “The energy flows better when the body is erect,” explains Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, “and when it’s bent, the flow is changed and that directly affects your thought process.” This posture will help meditation pupils remain awake, even though they are very calm.
The most difficult part of mindfulness meditation is learning to let go of the barrage of thoughts that arrive. Meditation teacher Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche instructs us that “No matter what kind of thought comes up, you should say to yourself, ‘That may be a really important issue in my life, but right now is not the time to think about it. Now I’m practicing meditation.’ It gets down to how honest we are, how true we can be to ourselves, during each session.” He adds that it’s the mind’s natural tendency to run wild and we have to recognize that and refrain from trying to force meditation to happen. As each thought arises, we label it as “thinking” and gently return to our meditative breathing, arriving back at the present situation of training the mind. Over time, the meditation methods fade away and we are left with a sense of relaxation and wellness.
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