Sometimes it is difficult to learn how to meditate from an enlightened guru, or at least it was for me when I was a beginner. I would read their words over and over, trying to understand what they were talking about -- but it was as though they were writing in a foreign language, one I had yet to learn.
I wrote about my own quest to become a meditator, and these writings evolved into the book "Choosing to Be: Lessons in Living from a Feline Zen Master," in which I describe the ups and downs of my struggle. My Maine Coon cat Poohbear Degoonacoon became the Feline Zen Master, and Catzenbear arrived as his kitten muse. Together we traveled the hero's journey, much like that of Don Quixote or Ulysses, except that most of the action happened within my own mind. (Come to think of it, much of their action happened in their minds too.)
You can enjoy our often humorous quest on Amazon Kindle. Who knows, perhaps you might even learn a thing or ten (as one of our generous reviewers wrote on Amazon).
"I found Choosing to Be one of the better books on Zen or sitting practice." ~Thom Hartmann, radio show host and New York Times bestselling author of 21 books in print
"I love this book. It hides nothing, teaches much, and remains readable and delightful along the way." ~Ann Lewis, Recover Your Balance
"Choosing to Be is a short, original, comfortingly readable introduction to the Buddhist path, a way of living that places the primary responsibility for our happiness into our own paws, er…hands.” ~John Calabrese, Creations Magazine
More corporations are paying attention to the need for mindfulness, meditation, and wellness programs. The studies and experiments are showing that there are benefits not only to the participants, but to the corporations as well.
One of the benefits of a meditation practice is that it allows you to access what we call "beginner's mind" -- which comes in handy when you are problem solving. Here's a study that shows how people who meditate are able to find quicker, easier solutions to logic problems than people who do not meditate. Given the complexities in the world today, having "beginner's mind" can make your life easier in many ways -- I like to think of it as X-Ray vision.
Jerome Stone is a man on a mission. He wrote Minding the Bedside to help nurses learn about and practice meditation -- to help them be present for their patients. He knows how important this is as he has been a practicing nurse for many years.
I see great leverage in Jerome's work -- every nurse who learns to meditate will be able to be there for his or her patients, no matter how stressed (and I am sure their lives are very stressed) they are in any particular moment.
Take a look at Jerome's website, download his free materials -- and consider giving his book as a gift to any nurse you care about.
We have the power to can help Jerome Stone make a difference, one nurse at a time.
One benefit of becoming a meditator that is not often discussed is that as you become more mindful, awake, and aware -- you might become a better photographer.
You will develop a different way of seeing, one that allows you to take in the complete scene and hold it in your awareness. And at the same time you begin to pay attention to the rhythms and small changes happening in that scene. It is really a multitude of individual scenes, and you may never get the best shot when your mind focuses on only one possibility and your finger presses the button.
Of course, if you shoot a lot of pictures, you will probably find the one picture of that scene that works. This is allowing the camera to do the work for you. Mindfulness allows you to be a more intimate part of the process.
If you want the greatest benefits from your sleep, whether eight-hours of uninterrupted sleep, or a four-hour insomniac’s sleep, you've got to meditate!
Meditator Jerome Stone makes this statement, and as a meditator and a researcher about insomnia, I know this to be true.
There are times in our life when we sleep more hours straight through than other times -- but if we practice meditation, we find that we don't need to get in a panic about a bout of what we might think of as that dreaded "insomnia."
I occasionally wake up around 3 am to go to the bathroom. When I come back to bed, I arrange the pillows for a backrest and sit in my usual meditation position. Often just 10-15 minutes of meditation brings my brainwaves down to the more relaxed Alpha state.
Then I just change the pillows back to the sleeping position, turn off the light, and drop off like a baby.
(Note: Many "experts" will tell you to get out of bed when you wake up and go do something else until you are sleepy again. I suspect these people are not meditators.)
Enjoy Jerome's post -- his blog is worth following, in my humble opinion.
This is an excellent article about how to bring the practice of mindfulness to work with you. Consider picking one of these ideas and trying it out for a few days. Then consider adding another and see where that takes you. These are simple ideas that can produce powerful results with practice. . .
I was fortunate to see Congressman Tim Ryan from Ohio speak at the Wisdom 2.0 Conference in February. I bought an early copy of his book, "A Mindful Nation" in which he presents studies on the effectiveness of mindfulness training in the military, healthcare, and schools.
Tim Ryan is stumping not for votes but for his book -- to awaken the American public to the many benefits of meditation and mindfulness. He is a fresh face in the mindfulness circuit, and a passionate, well informed advocate.
Read "A Mindful Nature" and share it with others -- it, to me, is a beacon of hope and a call for action. Where can you go to introduce others to mindfulness practice and make a difference?
This is a brief, nicely done video of how one military officer is sharing meditation and mindfulness with military families stationed in Germany.
I like the format of this class, particularly the part at the end where participants get to speak about how what they are learning affects their lives. Instead of everyone leaving the class to go their separate ways, this allows participants to develop a sense of a shared community, which reinforces their practice and their connection to the class.
"Just as tea takes the shape of whatever container it’s poured into, the mind tends to assume the shape of whatever thought, emotion, or sensation captures its attention. But it doesn’t just assume the shape of what is arising– it identifies with the object of attention."
~ Eric Klein
Eric Klein is a superb teacher who brings a very special energy to his teachings I've not encountered elsewhere. He doodles. Not just any doodles, but doodles that touch us, inspire us, make us laugh -- as we take a deep breath, go inside ourselves, and smile.
Mindfulness is entering the lives of many new young people as it’s added to school curriculums around the world. This victory is even more relevant as studies show that mindfulness helps reduce teen depression.
Kat Tansey's insight:
The need for bringing mindfulness into school curriculum's is urgent. There are enough studies now that prove it is effective.
It is time to act. Do what you can to promote this. Do it where you are. Do it with what you have.
Build teams to make this happen. Expect resistance. Create a plan. Get someone who knows about selling involved.
Meditation has been found to prevent the normal shrinkage of the brain that happens with age related decline and prevents cellular aging.
Kat Tansey's insight:
Debbie Hampton came to meditation to help her recover from brain injury. I came to it to help me heal myself and emerge from the depths of depression. I write about the mystery and magic of meditation, and now Debbie backs it up with her studies in brain sciences. The Feline Zen Master is pleased . . .
Over the past nine years, more than 2 million American soldiers have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. As many as several hundred thousand may now suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, experts say.
Kat Tansey's insight:
Living with constant stress takes it toll. This excellent article highlights the benefits of mindfulness meditation. Fifteen minutes a day can change your brain and your life.
I've been following Jerome Stone for some time, and find his writing and observations of particular interest because he is helping nurses bring mindfulness into the hospitals. If ever there was a place or a population that could use what he has to teach -- this is right up there, isn't it?
Here is a review of his book by Meaghan O'Keefe on scrubs.nurse.com. Pass this on to any nurses you know. . .
Jerome Stone addresses one of the most common aversions to meditation -- that often we feel like failures when our minds are behaving like runaway monkeys, and we believe there should be no thought. This is a misunderstanding, as much of meditation is learning about our minds, no matter what they are doing. Excellent article!
As I write this I am eating my breakfast and checking back to the Busy Signal article to see if there is a quote I want to use. I live in two worlds -- the world of multitasking and the world of meditation. When I don't spend enough time in meditation, I feel myself unraveling, doing more and more with less and less true connection and insight.
There have been studies and articles about the value or possible harm of multitasking from both sides, pro and con. I tend to be in the middle, because that is where I live. But if I were to choose I would have to side with cons, simply because I see so many people who do not have some sort of meditation or quieting the mind practice, and when we discuss the benefits of such a practice they invariably say something like "I just can't sit still long enough to meditate" or "My mind races too much to mediate." And yet, if they were to be still and look at their lives as an observer rather than a participant, they might be able to see that they are in a speed race to nowhere.
This article is written by Andrew Olendzki, Ph.D., who is the executive director and senior scholar at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies, in Barre, Massachussetts. Unlike many of the studies about multitasking, he looks at the issue from the perspective of the Buddha's teaching. Enjoy!
The perception of loneliness is in the mind, so what better way to ease it than with mindfulness meditation? An innovative study at Carnegie Mellon has produced some encouraging results, not only in easing the feeling of loneliness but in reducing elevated pro-inflammatory gene expression in the participants' immune cells. Inspiring work!
A meditation teacher responds to her students' question about falling asleep during meditation. She gives a succinct answer and provides a few suggestions that may be helpful to all you "sleepers" out there.
I've seen a few videos of meditation flashmobs -- the problem is that watching one via video is pretty much like watching paint dry. Here is a live report from a Brit who had her doubts but went to see for herself what it was like actually being part of one.
Naseem Khan reflects on her experience in this article -- "Meditating in public places has always made me uneasy, but this flashmob was half an hour of the purest sanity..."
I'm grateful to Naseem for her report -- much more interesting than a video. . .
Researchers have found that long-term meditators have larger amounts of gyrification ("folding" of the cortex, which may allow the brain to process information faster) then non-meditators.
I usually like to focus on the proven benefits of meditation that might be realized within a relatively short time frame, however this recently publicized study has such significant implications for the long term that it caught my eye.
Imagine -- over the 20 years of my meditation practice, my cortex has folded much more often than that of non-meditators. I love picturing all those folds -- and I'm looking forward to developing many more. . .
As conceptualizations of ADHD now increasingly recognize the importance of executive functioning and self-regulation in the disorder, mindfulness meditation — which can be thought of as a type of attention/cognitive exercise program that is focused in improving self-regulation — is a complementary treatment that is well worth investigating.
<This study is small, but encouraging. -- Kat Tansey>