Monday, November 23, 2015

On Meditation and Mindfulness

Yup, you've come to the right place. I realize the title of this post is pretty different from anything I've ever written about on here before.

I started meditating 2 years ago after reading Dan Harris' book 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge and Found Self-Help That Actually Works. Yes, Dan Harris, the ABC anchor and correspondent.

The book showed up on my Kindle recommendations. I have no idea why, since I'd never been remotely interested in reading about anything spiritual. The title was intriguing though, so I ended up  reading about Harris' drug-fueled panic attack on national television and how meditation was helpful for him.

Like Dan Harris, I think there are a lot of misconceptions about meditation. I don't think I've ever told my family or my friends that I meditate daily because I'm pretty sure they will think it's weird. People assume that meditation is about trying to stop the thoughts or clear the mind. From my limited experience, I've found it's more about awareness and focusing attention. There are many different types of meditation out there, but I usually just sit for 15-20 minutes each day and focus on my breathing.

Meditation has not been a magic cure-all for me but I find that I notice and enjoy the beautiful things in life more. My husband has told me that he has noticed that I have fewer meltdowns and rant less. Honestly, I view it as a form of mental exercise rather than a spiritual or religious practice.

If you're interested in meditation, Dan Harris' book is entertaining and non-threatening. You might read his book and come away convinced that meditation is not for you. At least you'll have read a good story.

Here are a few other resources which I've found useful:

Palousemindfulness.com
This is a free online self-guided mindfulness based stress reduction course with readings, videos and guided meditations. After reading Dan Harris' book, I really wanted to attend a MBSR course, which is an 8-week course that was developed by a doctor at the University of Massachusetts many years ago. Unfortunately, for the longest time, I couldn't find a live course that fit my schedule. The Palouse course has been a great alternative.

Real Happiness by Sharon Salzberg
There are lots of books out there about meditation and mindfulness. I like this book because it's very simple and straightforward. Other authors who have been highly recommended to me include Jon Kabat-Zinn, Pema Chodron, Mark Epstein and Tara Brach. I have downloaded their books onto my Kindle but to be honest, I have never managed to get more than a few chapters into their books. I actually finished Real Happiness though, and found it very useful.

OMG I can meditate
This is an iPhone app and also a website. The first week and some of the basic meditations are free. You can pay a monthly fee to continue with the rest of the 12-week program and access all of the meditations. I initially found the woman who narrates the meditations and videos very annoying but she doesn't bother me as much anymore. The full access version is on sale through to Cyber Monday.

Have you ever tried meditating? Have you noticed that mindfulness seems to be trending lately?