MBS Blog — #9 Mindfulness Meditation
I have been a devoted and passionate teacher of mindfulness meditation for about 15 years. Many people have misconceptions about meditation. The most common misperception is that meditation is about relaxing. Of course, meditation may be relaxing at times, but not always and the intent is not relaxation, but obtaining a better understanding of yourself, and learning to respond to body sensations and thoughts/emotions more deliberately, and learning to live fully in the moments of our lives. Mindfulness meditation is a form of meditation that asks people to simply pay very close attention to the here and now, to the present moment, to what is happening right now, whatever that may be. One of the great things about mindfulness is that one can practice it at any moment, no mater what you are doing or what is going on. That makes it quite useful as a way to cope with the ups and downs of life.
The reason to learn mindfulness meditation techniques for people with Mind Body syndrome is that it can help a great deal in learning to live fully in the present and to learn to let go of some of the things that tend to perpetuate MBS, such as fear, anxiety, sadness, issues from the past, or worries about the future.
The techniques taught in mindfulness practice are the following. You are invited to pay attention to your breath, simply noticing the breath without trying to change it, and without judging it in any way. Simply noticing the breath moment by moment, breath by breath. Try to stay awake and alert. Practice being kind to yourself as you practice mindfulness. Choose to pay attention to the breath. However, you will also notice that the mind will wander from the breath, sometimes frequently. Then simply notice that the mind has wandered and choose to pay attention to the breath once again. The essence of mindfulness is to notice what is happening, so if you are paying attention to the breath or if your mind is wandering, you can notice either of those and still be practicing mindfulness. You will be practicing noticing, accepting and letting go, moment by moment. Noticing without judgment, accepting the moment as it is, and letting go of the last moment in order to pay attention to the next moment.
The fantastic thing about mindfulness practice is that once you learn this approach, you can apply mindfulness (noticing, accepting, letting go) to anything in life, including your body, your thoughts, your emotions, your situations, your stressors, your walking, your eating, your driving, etc. It is a powerful practice that has been shown to help reduce pain, lower blood pressure, alleviate anxiety, and increase contentment. In fact, one study showed that people who took a mindfulness class had changes in their brainwaves that indicated an improvement in a biologic measure of happiness/contentment. Pretty amazing.
Of course, part of the program to help people with Mind Body Syndrome is to help them be happier and more content. It is also to help them to better cope with the stresses of their lives. It is to help them let go of past issues and be able to focus on the present. It is also to help them to be more kind to themselves. Mindfulness helps in all of these ways.
There are several excellent books on mindfulness meditation, including those by Jon Kabat-Zinn, Joseph Goldstein, Sylvia Boorstein, Thich Nhat Hahn and others. The Mind Body Educational program that I teach on this web site includes instruction in mindfulness meditation. There are mindfulness meditation teachers all over the world. One web site to find such teachers is: http://www.umassmed.edu/cfm/mbsr
To your health,
Howard Schubiner, MD