Article by Jeff Behar, MS, MBA
In mantra and breath meditation, you focus on a word or your breath and try to empty your mind of everything else. This mental clearing is what most people mean when they refer to meditation.But there’s another kind of meditation, a practice Buddhists call vipassana or sometimes called mindfulness, or insight meditation.
Mindfulness-based meditation is actually based on Buddhist Vipassana meditation. It was developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in 1979 as a method for people to cope with chronic pain. Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness meditation involves being “mindful” or aware of the continuously passing parade of sensations and feelings, images, thoughts, sounds, smells, and so forth of your immediate surroundings without becoming involved in thinking about them. Mindfulness meditation involves simply experiencing whatever thoughts goes through the mind, without reacting to them. By training your mind to observe, without reacting or thinking your mind becomes clear, and calm.Mindfulness meditation could be said to be opposite of concentrative meditation, in that while concentrative meditation involves zooming in and focusing on an object, sound or thought, when performing mindfulness meditation instead of narrowing your sight to a selected field you will be aware of the entire field. The intent of mindfulness meditation, besides clearing and calming the mind, is to (1) enable you to stop and appreciate life for all it has to offer and (2) to develop a skill that enables you to respond less impulsively and more effectively.
Types of Mindfulness Meditation
There are two kinds of mindful meditation – formal and informal. Yoga and Tai chi are two good examples of the formal type. In a yoga class, and during tai chi, participants focus intently on their breathing and the postures, moving slowly from one position to the next, exquisitely aware of their feelings during the process. Practitioners are taught to concentrate on their breathing and i ts passa ge through the body as they dismiss any distracting thoughts.
Informal mindfulness meditation involves incorporating mindful approaches to moments of everyday life. A person takes a simple situation and merely observes it without promoting thoughts in a particular direction.
How to Perform Mindfulness MeditationThe practice of mindfulness meditation requires the person to be fully conscious of his or her surroundings while simply observing thoughts without making judgments about them and then moving on. The goal of mindfulness meditation is not to go into a trance, but rather to remain fully mindful and observe all of the surroundings but without acting on them. The key is to remain peacefully conscious without allowing your mind to wander or react to the thoughts. The easiest way to begin to train the mind for this type of meditation is to concentrate on your breathing and posture.After focusing intently on these things, you then expand your concentration to the thoughts. Do not try to repress or encourage these thoughts, just serve the thoughts and then move to the next.You can practice formal mindfulness meditation, which will also include a physical approach (concentrating on posture as well) or an informal approach where you just become mindful to moments of everyday life., simply observing without promoting thoughts in any particular direction (rememeber the wide angle lens approach). Though it sounds simple, mindfulness takes practice, and the longer you practice, the easier the process becomes. Benefits of Mindfulness MeditationsPeople who regularly practice mindfulness meditation tend to develop a more positive relationship with their bodies. They change their habits to improve their health and well-being. Benefits of Meditation
Studies also indicate that meditation can produce experience-based structural alterations in the brain,that may slow down the aging-related atrophy of certain areas of the brain. An imaging study led by Massachusetts General Hospita l (MGH) researchers showed that particular areas of the cerebral cortex, the outer layer of the brain, were thicker in participants who were experienced practitioners of a type of meditation commonly practiced in the U.S. and other Western countries. The article appeared in the Nov. 15, 2008 issue of NeuroReport.
Research has shown that Meditation can contribute to an individual’s psychological and physiological well-being. This is accomplished as Meditation brings the brainwave pattern into an alpha state, which is a level of consciousness that promotes the healing state.Meditation is widely recommended as a healthy way to manage stress, and for good reason. It provides many health-enhancing benefits, like reducing symptoms of stress and anxiety, relieving chronic conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, ulcers, irritable bowel disorders, hypertension, and insomnia; relieving physical complaints like headaches, PMS, joint pain, and even enhancing immunity to illness.Meditation has also shown to provide the following psychological benefits: * Increased brain wave coherence. * Greater creativity, improved moral reasoning, and higher IQ. * Improved learning ability and memory * Increased focus * Increased self-actualization * Increased feelings of vitality and rejuvenation * Increased happiness * Increased emotional stability * Increased self-confidence * Increased connections with others * Decreased anxiety * Decreased depression * Decreased irritability and moodiness
About the Author
Jeff Behar, MS, MBA holds multiple advanced science and business degrees from Rutgers and Cal State Universities (BS, Science, MS Health Science, MBA, Finance). His qualifications and experience includes:
Sought after personal trainer, and public speaker in the areas of nutrition, fitness, and bodybuilding.
Jeff regularly writes about hot topics in the areas of health, fitness, disease prevention, nutrition, bodybuilding, men’s hea