Mindfulness (or meditation–they are not exactly the same, and the experts often opine that mindfulness also includes mediation, so I will go with the broader term) gets a lot of press these days. But, for most of us, the term still triggers images of the bearded old man sitting on the top of the mountain trying to levitate by connecting to the universe. I was no exception. I am now a regular meditator (not yet a word?), and due to my age (53), hair style (shaved head), graying goatee, and thin build, I likely enforce the stereotype. With the increasing stress levels everyone seems to be experiencing, it is time to put aside the stereotypes and give mindfulness a try.
Mindfulness practices are, of course, thousands of years old. Even the science proving that mindfulness is far more than a mystic placebo now goes back decades. And the business, sport, and entertainment celebrities who have a regular mindfulness practice are not all new to it either, some having started decades back, and are now coming out of the closet. Personalities as diverse as Steve Jobs (who seriously considered a Zen or monk-like life before he stumbled into some crazy business venture), Jerry Seinfeld, and Tom Brady swear it is or was essential to their success. And, spirituality? Many of its strongest advocates are very secular, even atheist (Dan Harris, Jon Kabat Zinn, Yuval Harari).
In spite of all this, if a person was not born into an Eastern culture, and now meditate, their story usually incorporates the following elements: 1) hearing about mindfulness, but believing it was just for the old man on the mountain; 2) seeing that some relatively normal people also do it, but concluding that it is not for them personally; 3) trying it, but with the misconception that it means to sit and have no thoughts, failing miserably at that, and concluding that they can’t mediate; 4) learning that this “no thoughts” was a misconception about mindfulness, and trying again, with some proper training (maybe just through a book, app, podcast, etc.); 5) getting a glimpse of what the benefit may actually feel like, and wanting more of it; 6) actually incorporating it into their lives, and experiencing undeniable benefits, and; 7) now finding themselves wanting others to try it, but unable to articulate why it works or exactly what those benefits feel like.
I am squarely at step 7. I am not an expert, but after 3 years of sampling different mindfulness practices, and incorporating these tools almost daily, I have felt the benefits, and will not go back. However, when pressed to explain something as simple as “what is mindfulness,” or “how exactly does a person meditate,” or “what are the benefits of mindfulness,” I find myself unsure of where to even start. It is a big question, with many answers.
Luckily, there are teachers out there far better at answering each of these questions. Here is a short list of some from which I have personally learned:
- Modern Mindfulness
- The Urban Monk
- 10% Happier
- Mindfulness for the Fidgety Skeptic
- Modern Mindfulness
- Strength In Stillness
- 10% Happier
- Tara Brach
- Guided Mindfulnesss
- One Mind Therapy
The resources are plentiful in today’s “connected” world. I encourage you to do some research and give it a real try. Even if it is not for you, I doubt it will do you any harm. And, please let me know how it goes. Your experience may be helpful to others.