4 common myths about meditation (debunked)

1.Meditation is about stopping thoughts, feelings and memories from coming into your mind

Recent studies have shown that trying to stop, block or push away thoughts, feelings or memories only works temporarily if at all, they often return with extra power and velocity soon after.

Meditation is about noticing that these thoughts feelings or sensations are there but choosing to focus your attention on one or more aspects of the present moment instead.

Examples of these aspects could be sounds, your breathing or sensations in your body. It is the continual task of re-focusing your attention on these aspects of the present moment that allow these uncomfortable thoughts, feelings and memories to dissipate, naturally in their own time.

This can be very difficult initially, however, meditation is a moment by moment experience, even life long mediators have thoughts, feelings and memories that try to distract them.

The difference between a Zen master and a beginner meditator is that the Zen master notices these thoughts, feelings and memories a lot quicker and refocuses on the present moment with minimal fuss or struggle.

2. Meditation might bring up memories or thoughts you don’t really want to think about or feel

Meditation is an observing process not a thinking process. Whilst thoughts often arise including thoughts with visual content like memories the aim is to notice you have gone into thinking and re-focus on observing.

So if memories or thoughts come up, whether they are positive or negative, the first step is to notice that your thinking then re-focus on observing and watch these unhelpful thoughts drift away as you focus on what else is going on in that moment.

3. Meditation is only for people who are stressed or anxious

Mediation is great for distancing oneself from feelings of stress or anxiety however this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Learning and practicing meditation will allow you to be aware of what you are thinking, feeling and doing at any given moment. You will begin to notice conditioned thought and behaviour patterns that stop you from being your best possible self. You will notice when you are triggered by something someone else says or does, which could begin the much needed introspection required to build emotional resilience.

Other benefits include:

  • Improving your concentration and focus whilst decreasing procrastination
  • Lifting your energy and vitality for life
  • Improving your ability to listen and communicate when connecting with friends, family and other humans
  • Improved ability to cope with life’s adversities

4. You need to meditate for long periods of time, everyday, to get the benefits

When first learning to meditate you may find it difficult to sit and focus for long periods of time. It’s important to set realistic and achievable goals and always use a stopwatch or timer.

Begin with three minutes a day for a week. If this is easy to achieve then you can slowly add extra time or do twice per day. If this is difficult then try three minutes, three times a week and you can increase it from there.

Mindfulness is a moment by moment experience. Within a three minute meditation you will likely have seconds of complete oneness with the present moment and many seconds of refocusing your mind once you catch it wandering. There’s no need to be frustrated when you catch your mind wandering. Every time you refocus your attention you rewire your brain for resilience and emotional awareness.

Jakob is running a two part workshop to teach the basics of mindfulness mediation at the brand new Plant Room in Manly NSW. For more details or to book yourself a place click the link below.

manlymindfulnessworkshops.eventbrite.com.au

Tickets are $69 + booking fee

Jakob Casella is a Sydney life coach & therapist who uses mindfulness based approaches to help clients improve and enrich their lives. Coaching can be organised in your home or office, face to face or via Skype, For more information click here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Important Points on Mindfulness Meditation

1. Mindfulness is an observing, not a thinking process

Mindfulness uses the mental process of observing or noticing rather than thinking. The observing part of your mind does not have an opinion, any desires, likes or dislikes, its only process is to observe. The observing part of your mind can only observe the present moment and can focus the inner world, the outer world or aspects of both all at once. Aspects of the inner world we can observe include thoughts, feelings, memories, urges or sensations. Aspects of the outer world we can observe include sounds close by or far away, sensations such as vibrations, the wind against our skin, tastes, smells and so on.

2. It’s normal to get distracted 

It’s normal and natural to get distracted by thoughts when practicing mindfulness, it happens to everyone. Your ability to notice that you have been distracted and refocus on the present moment is where all the learning and re-wiring of the brain happens.

3. Always set a timer

You need to set a timer or use a recording. This way you can aim to be 100% mindful for a set amount of time rather than letting your thinking mind decide ‘yeah, that’s enough’.

4. Some days are better than others and that’s okay

Mindfulness is a process that can never be truly mastered, there is always room to grow. Some days you may feel really connected to the present moment and other days you may be distracted by everything and anything. That’s okay, go easy on yourself. On the days where it’s especially difficult to focus, your repeated and sustained effort is going to teach you more than ten days of perfect practice. On these more difficult days practice self love and be soft and humble with yourself.

. supta-baddha-konasana  

This yoga pose is called ‘supta-baddha-konasana’. Putting one hand on your belly and one on your heart, whilst practicing mindful breathing, this is a great way to cultivate an attitude of self-love. This is a powerful activity to do if you are feeling frustrated or finding it difficult to focus.

5. If your aim is solely to reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety or worry you are setting yourself up for failure

Feelings of relaxation and symptom reduction may arise, such as lowered anxiety, however these are just a beneficial by-product of having contact with the present moment. By all means enjoy positive feelings as they come up, but try not to make them your sole purpose for practicing. Your aim when practicing mindfulness should be to have contact with whatever you are experiencing in present moment with an attitude of openness and acceptance.

Below is 10 steps to mindfulness meditation by the Garrison Institute

ten steps to Mindfulness

Mindfulness VS. Mindlessness

The practice of mindfulness has become increasing popular in the psychology and life coaching arena of late, however mindfulness  is in no way a new concept. Many believe its origins stem from Buddhism, however Hindus practiced mindfulness over 2,500 years ago.

So what exactly is mindfulness?

Mindfulness includes concentration and continual re-focus on a specific aspect or a range of aspects that are occurring in the present moment. For example, the breath, the feeling of the wind against your skin, sounds you are hearing, how your body feels, what you can smell and the sensations you can feel.

What is the opposite of mindfulness?

Mindlessness is when we have our attention focused on the past or future. We get lots of practice at being mindless, it’s our minds default setting. It includes ruminating, analysing, problem solving or day dreaming; essentially it’s on auto pilot.

When comparing mindfulness to mindlessness it’s important to understand that both functions have important roles in our lives.  One important difference between human beings and other animals is our ability to direct our attention between the past, present and future.

This has helped us survive in two ways:

Firstly, by focusing on the past we use information that we have learned to keep us out of trouble in the present. By focusing on the future we can plan or envision new ways of doing things that can be used in the present.

Secondly, we often use mindlessness as a coping mechanism, when we do not like the present moment we take ourselves to the past or future. At times this can be a sufficient coping strategy but in some cases this can cause much bigger problems especially when it is solely relied on to escape or avoid unhelpful thoughts, feelings or memories.

Being mindless is our default setting, and we are unaware when we are in this state of mind because we are not there to notice. To notice, we would have to be mindful.

There are a range of benefits of practicing mindfulness skills, including but not limited to:

  • The improved ability to manage stress and anxiety and anger levels
  • The improved ability to handle painful thoughts, feelings, emotions, sensations and memories, in a way that has far less impact on your life
  • Improved concentration and attention
  • Enhanced sense of spirituality, self-love and compassion

Mindfulness uses the mind process of observing rather than thinking. The observing part of your mind does not have an opinion, any desires, likes or dislikes, it’s only process is to observe.

Mindfulness-meditation-002

Here is a a quick mindfulness activity you can do anywhere to access this observing part of your mind.

Firstly set a timer on your phone or watch for a desired amount of time. If you are new to mindfulness, a few minutes will be great.

Sit in a comfortable position, or lie on the floor and take some deep breaths in and out of your nose.

Notice your stomach filling up like a balloon and gently deflating.

Now notice the sounds you can hear, once you have noticed a sound label it and refocus on your breath.

Every time a new sound comes up silently label it and re-focus on your stomach filing up like a balloon.

From time to time the sounds may trigger a thought or feeling and you may become temporarily mindless. 

Try not to get frustrated by this, this is a natural and normal thing that minds do. 

As soon as you notice this, re-focus on your breathing and any sounds in the room.

Continue doing this until your timer is up.

Take this sense of mindfulness out into your day!

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4 ways to make unhelpful thoughts have less impact on your life

Recent studies show that the average human mind has over 50,000 thoughts a day. How many of these thoughts are helpful and how many are unhelpful? Studies have shown that at least half of these thoughts are unhelpful and the more we push them away or block them out, the more they return with extra power and velocity.

How much impact do negative thoughts have on your life? Have they developed into stories that play through your mind, day in day out?

One of most common stories is the, ‘I’m not good enough’ story. Nearly all of us have some derivative of this story whether it’s the, ‘I’m not a good enough friend, employee, provider, lover etc. Other stories could be, ‘I’m a failure, I’m a fraud, I’m broken, I’m unlovable’ and so on and so on. Our mind is a great storyteller, it conjures up all sorts of unhelpful things that stop us from being our best possible selves, friends, lovers, employees and humans.

Are your thoughts

Here are four ways to retrain your mind in order to make unhelpful thoughts have less impact on your life. Different techniques work for different people, so give them all a try and determine which ones work best for you.

To begin, bring to mind an unhelpful and recurring thought, then try the following techniques.

1. Remind yourself that it’s only a thought

By silently saying to yourself, ‘I’m having the thought that I am a failure’ rather than, ‘I am a failure’, you are reminding yourself that it’s not a truth but a thought.’I am having the thought that I am a failure’ has much lest impact than, ‘I am a failure’. You can also try, ‘I am noticing I am having the thought that I am a failure’.

2. Sarcastically thank your mind

Once you have noticed a thought as a thought, silently and sarcastically say ‘thank you mind’. This reminds you to be compassionate with yourself whilst acknowledging it is nothing more than a thought. 

3. Name the story

Give that repetitive story about yourself a name. It could be the, ‘I’m a stupid failure story’. Make the name as ridiculous as you like. Every time you notice yourself having this thought, say silently in your head, ‘oh it’s the I’m a stupid  failure story’. You can then add on, ‘thanks mind’.

4. Silly songs 

Once you notice yourself having that unhelpful thought or story, sing it to the tune of  Happy Birthday, Mary Had a Little Lamb or anything else that you like. 

Some of these techniques may seem a little crazy, however the aim is to assist you to distance yourself from your unwanted thoughts rather than trying to push them away. For maximum affect these techniques should be practiced in conjunction with mindfulness practices such as mediation.

Why these techniques work?

Firstly, they allow you to notice when unhelpful thoughts have consumed you.

Secondly, they teach you to distance yourself from your thoughts and help you to recognise that your thoughts are not truths or demands and are not always helpful to obey.

Thirdly, by allowing thoughts to be there even though you might not like them, you learn to make room for them and give up the struggle with them. This makes them less powerful and have less impact on your life.

Lastly, they teach you a lightheartedness that allows you to show compassion towards yourself.

When trying these techniques your mind might start telling you, ‘this won’t work for me’, ‘this is stupid’ and so on and so on. Stick at it. Whilst you may not see drastic changes straight away, you will see changes.

These techniques come from the work of Dr. Russ Harris, an expert in ACT. This style of therapy incorporates the most helpful parts of a range of existing psychology theories in conjunction with eastern philosophies such as mindfulness. To read more about ACT click here.