Treating Adult ADHD with Mindfulness


Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is most commonly found in children, but for about half it persists into adulthood. It’s estimated that about 5% of the adult population has ADHD. Hence, this is a very large problem that can produce inattention, impulsivity, hyperactivity, and emotional issues, and reduce quality of life.

The most common treatment is drugs, like methylphenidate, Ritalin, which helps reducing symptoms in about 30% of the people with ADHD. Unfortunately, the effectiveness of the drugs appears to be markedly reduced after the first year. In addition, the drugs often have troublesome side effects, including nervousness agitation, anxiety, irritability, sleep and appetite problems, head and stomach aches, nausea, dizziness, and heart palpitations. If that’s not enough they can be addictive and can readily be abused. So, drugs, at present, do not appear to be a good solution, only affecting some, only for a short time, and with unwanted side effects.

There are indications that mindfulness training may be a more effective treatment for ADHD. It makes sense that it should be, as the skills and abilities strengthened by mindfulness training are identical to those that are defective in ADHD, attention, impulse control, executive function, emotion control, and mood improvement. In addition, it is a relatively safe intervention that has minimal troublesome side effects.

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness Meditation Improves Mood, Quality of Life, and Attention in Adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder”

Bueno and her colleagues apply mindful awareness training for the treatment of adult ADHD. They found large clinically significant improvements in sustained attention, detectability, mood, and quality of life. Particularly important was the finding that mindfulness significantly improved attention as prior studies were not able to detect attentional improvement.

It is actually surprising that individuals with ADHD can sit still to meditate. But, it appears that they not only can, they report that they like it and it relaxes them.

Mindfulness practice is training in attentional focus. So, it is not surprising that this training improved attentional ability in people with ADHD. The improvement was not just in general attentional ability but also in detectability, the ability to discriminate relevant from irrelevant visual signals. Hence, mindfulness training appears to be particularly helpful in improving the ability to pay attention to the intended target while decreasing the degree to which other stimuli in the environment might intrude and distract the individual.

Mindfulness training improves executive function, cognitive control. This combined by the reduced distractibility decreases impulsive behavior, keeping behavior better regulated by thoughtful intentional processes. People with ADHD often fault themselves for their impulsive behavior and judge themselves harshly when these behaviors emerge. So, with mindfulness the individuals begin to feel better about themselves. Mindfulness training has been shown to improve the individual’s ability to keep emotions in check, to feel the emotions but to respond to them appropriately.

All of these benefits of mindfulness training for people with ADHD make it easier for them to function in life and combined with mood enhancement, produces a significant increase in quality of life. Mindfulness seems to make many aspects of the individual’s life better.

So, use mindfulness training to help manage ADHD.

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


Stop Emotional Eating with Yoga


Eating can occur because of a physiological need, signaling hunger. That is healthy eating. But eating can also happen for emotional reasons which can produce mindless unhealthy eating or an eating disorder, such as binge eating disorder.

Many people respond to stress, anxiety, or fear with coping strategies, one of which is eating. This is emotional eating. It results from distress and the individual’s attempts to deal with it. The eating behavior is used to reduce the distress. But, this is an unhealthy strategy. It’s not only directly detrimental to health by producing overeating but the emotional eating itself can become a source of stress and anxiety creating a vicious cycle. There is thus a need to find ways to teach the individual to respond to the distress with more adaptive strategies or to increase the individuals’ tolerance for the stress so they do not employ coping strategies like eating.

In today’s Research News article “The Effects of a Hatha Yoga Intervention on Facets of Distress Tolerance”

Medina and colleagues investigated whether Hatha Yoga could be successfully employed to reduce emotional eating. They found that and 8-week, twice weekly, yoga practice reduced emotional eating at a clinically significant level.

Medina and colleagues went further looking at the individuals’ tolerance for distress and found that the yoga practice also markedly improved the levels of distress tolerance. In addition, they found that the yoga practice appeared to have its effect on emotional eating by increasing distress tolerance. With the individual better able to deal effectively with the distress the need for the coping strategy, eating, was removed. Hence, yoga practice appeared to attack the root of the problem.

Looking more carefully, it was discovered that it was the cognitive components of distress tolerance that were improved by yoga. These included a facilitation of the thought processes needed to deal with distress and a decrease in the interference with attentional processes produced by the distress. Interestingly, the yoga did not affect the emotional and behavioral components in dealing with distress. So, it appears that yoga produces clearer thinking and thereby better, healthier, responses to the distress.

This makes sense as yoga practice trains the individual to pay attention in the present moment to exactly what they’re doing and how their feeling. It puts their behavior under conscious thoughtful control. The improved attentional and behavioral control produced by yoga could be responsible for clearer thinking about the distress and more appropriate responses to it.

This is an exciting and potentially important finding. There are other coping strategies other than emotional eating that other individuals display in response to distress. It would be important to look at these other strategies in future research to see if they too are improved with yoga.

So, practice yoga and get control of emotional eating

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


Get your Calm on!

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is one of the first secular based mindfulness training programs in the west. In fact, it could be argued that the development of MBSR was what launched the mindfulness movement in the west. The movement took off probably because MBSR was shown to be so very effective in the treatment of a wide range of physical, psychological, and emotional issues that plague western culture.

Stress is rampant in competitive western culture producing physical and psychological damage. MBSR’s effectiveness at calming the reactions to stress and reducing anxiety has made it a very popular.

MBSR is not a single practice. Rather it is a combination of practices including meditation, yoga, and body scan meditation. Whether all of these components are necessary for effectiveness or if some components are more effective for some conditions while others are superior for others has yet to be established with empirical evidence. This is an important issue for the understanding of the exact mechanisms by which MBSR has its effects.

It is also not known how much MBSR or how much of each component is needed to have a maximum impact. In more scientific words, a dose response study is needed. This is important to produce optimum effectiveness.

In today’s Research News Article “Effectiveness of Brief Mindfulness Techniques in Reducing Symptoms of Anxiety and Stress’

David Call and colleagues tested whether very brief, three weekly 45-min sessions of hatha yoga or body scan would be effective in reducing stress and anxiety in undergraduate students. Both practices reduced both anxiety and stress levels.

Interestingly, neither group showed a significant increase in mindfulness, possibly due to the lack of meditation practice and perhaps suggesting that yoga and body scan practices might act directly on stress and anxiety rather than by raising mindfulness that then reduced the symptoms. This contradicts the notion that mindfulness based increases in present moment awareness are the cause of the reduction in anxiety which is future oriented. It remains possible that the physiological effects of yoga and body scan on reducing the hormonal and neural responses to stress may be responsible.

The magnitude of the effects on stress and anxiety were quite large and clinically significant. It is amazing that such a brief treatment of 3 sessions of 45 minutes could have this large of an impact. It remains to be seen if the impact is lasting. Regardless, the fact that a brief simple intervention can markedly reduce stress and anxiety is exciting as it is highly scalable; rolling it out to large numbers of individuals.

So, practice yoga and/or body scan and get your calm on.


What to Look for in Meditation

“Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet. It’s a way of entering into the quiet that’s already there – buried under the 50,000 thoughts the average person thinks every day.” – Deepak Chopra –

Over the last week we’ve posted descriptions of meditation and a few meditative techniques. (see below). Today we will discuss what you should look for and explore in meditation.

Meditation is much more complex than it appears on the surface. Beneath the calm resting outward demeanor of the meditator a storm can be raging. If you have tried meditation at all then you’re well aware of this. I love the ocean metaphor of meditation. On the surface there may be storms and turbulence, but go just a few yards below the surface and everything is calm, peaceful, and deep. This is how you should view meditation. Let the storms rage on the surface, but look into the depths.

One of the first things that you should notice in your meditation is the fact that no matter how hard you try the mind wanders off, not just a few times, but repeatedly meditation after meditation, day after day, week after week, etc. There is a tremendous insight here just waiting to be noticed and that is that you cannot control your mind. When given a very simple task to do, simply follow the breath, perhaps with counting, over a very brief period of time, you find that it is almost impossible to do. Reflect on this fact. It is very important and the beginning of the wisdom that emerges from meditation.

Think about it; you cannot control your mind! An implication of this is that it is not under your control. Well, then who or what is controlling it? After a while it begins to dawn on you that the mind is simply the operation of the brain, a biological entity that has been programmed by experience and the genes. Viewing the mind is no different than viewing a computer screen and the operation of this very complex electronic entity. When you’re meditating, you’re just watching your internal computer doing its thing.

Look then at what you’re trying to do when you attempt to control your mind in meditation. You’re asking your mind to control your mind. You’re trying to use an uncontrollable entity to control an uncontrollable entity. No wonder you repeatedly fail. You’re watching the uncontrollable surface of the ocean. You need to go deeper!

Note that we’ve been saying that you cannot control the mind, that you’re watching your own biological computer at work, and that you need to go deeper. Look at this statement. Think about it. What is the “you” that is trying to control, that is looking, that is trying to go deeper. Think about Jon Kabat-Zinn’s definition of mindfulness “paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally, to the unfolding of experience moment to moment“ and ask yourself what is it that’s paying attention. In fact as who or what is doing the asking.

It should be becoming evident that there is something much deeper than the mind. The mind is just the surface turbulence. The true “you” is simply aware of all this froth. It is not the froth. It is the ocean of awareness. Later you’ll come to see that the ocean of awareness also contains the surface and the whitecaps. But for now, separate them and look simply at what’s looking, what’s hearing, what’s feeling, what’s noticing the thoughts. Spend time in meditation just doing this. Look for what’s looking.

You’ll note that you can’t find what’s looking. It’s like a camera trying to take a picture of itself, a microphone trying to hear itself. What you can do is get a sense of it. You can feel its presence by noting that no matter what is going on, its calm presence is always there simply observing, being aware. Note that it is just watching and aware of the present moment. It’s just aware of sights, sounds, feelings, thoughts, rising up and falling away, coming and going. This is what you should be looking for in meditation; not what’s being perceived, but what’s doing the perceiving. When you are able to do this you are now becoming aware of what the “you” truly is, what “you” really are.

Abide there! Spend time there, even though your mind takes you away again and again, hundreds of times. Just keep coming back. Be entranced and amazed by the presence that is your true self.

“Meditation is the dissolution of thoughts in eternal awareness or pure consciousness.” – Swami Sivananda

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are available at the Contemplative Studies Blog

In prior posts we discussed the preliminaries for meditation



Breath Meditation


Open Monitoring Meditation

Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM) practice

And Body Scan Meditation

Meditation Techniques – Body Scan Meditation


“It’s amazing to me that simultaneously completely preoccupied with the appearance of our own body and at the same time completely out of touch with it as well.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

In prior posts we discussed Breath Meditation

Open Monitoring Meditation

and Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM) practice.

Today we will discuss another meditation technique, Body Scan Meditation. This technique is excellent for bringing present moment awareness to all of the sensations throughout the body. It can help to increase your awareness of precisely how each part of your body is feeling at the present moment. We’d appreciate hearing comments and suggestions from others. There are many paths!

Many people go through their day with very little awareness of the feelings and sensations from their bodies. This can be a major problem as these sensations carry important messages. They can reflect your state of health or even reveal emotions that you were unaware were affecting you. It can make you much more aware of when you’re experiencing stress, allowing you to better manage it. It can heighten your awareness of the non-verbal cues that you may be sending others, allowing you to better understand other peoples’ responses to you. As the proverb goes “know thyself” and Body Scan meditation can help.

To begin the meditation lie down on the floor on a mat or pad on stretched out on your back with your hands alongside your body. Gently close your eyes. There will be a tendency to fall asleep during the practice as the deep relaxation takes its toll on your awakeness. Don’t be concerned if you do fall asleep, many people do. But try to “fall awake” and really focus your attention. If you can feel yourself getting very sleepy you might try opening your eyes.

For a couple of minutes just relax and move your attention to the sensations from throughout your body, skin, muscles, joints, and internal organs. Feel the energy of life throughout. Now move your attention to the toes on your right foot. Feel the sensations from your toes, noting any tension, pain or discomfort, but particularly just become aware of everything you feel from your toes. Try to watch your breathing and imagine the air moving into and out of your toes on its way to the lungs with every breath. If you don’t feel anything, don’t worry, just note it and move on.

Now do the same thing for the bottom of your foot, moving your attention to the sensations from the top of your foot and then breathing through it. Take your time and fully appreciate the sensations. Then move on and repeat the process for the bottom of the foot, then the ankle, followed by the lower leg, the knee, the upper leg and thigh, the pelvis, and the hip. The entire process is then repeated for the left leg moving from toes to hip.

After completing the scan of the left hip repeat the process for the abdomen, the lower back, the upper back, the chest, the shoulder blades, the armpits and the shoulders. Then moving on to the sensations from the fingers on both the left and right sides simultaneously, back of the hands, front of the hands, wrists, forearms, elbows, and upper arms. Then move your attention to the sensations from the neck, the throat, the jaw, the lips, the nose, the cheeks, the ears, the eyes and eyelids, the forehead, the top of your head, and the back of your head.

After completing the scan, just relax like you did in the beginning, feeling the sensations from throughout your body. Just lie there for a few minutes silently enjoying the peace and quiet, with full awareness of your body and all the sensations from all over it. Experience the wonder of your body. Experience the awesome vehicle of your life. Feel the life everywhere throughout. Luxuriate in the sensations and simply enjoy being alive.

There are many variations of the body scan. You might do well to find a guided body scan meditation on the web and use it to guide you initially. But, eventually move on to doing your own body scan as you find it works best for you. Remember that this is a practice and must be repeated on a regular schedule. But if you do, you’ll be amazed at the relaxation and stress relief it brings, the ongoing awareness of the sensations from your body, and the appreciation for your living body.

So, practice the Body Scan meditation and get in touch with your body.

“Through practising body scan awareness meditation, we can greatly reduce the detrimental effects of stress and make our working lives pleasant and enjoyable.” ― Christopher Dines

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


Meditation Techniques – Loving Kindness Meditation


In the last posts we discussed beginning meditation practice building up to open monitoring meditation practice.

Beginning Meditation – Getting Started 4 – Open Monitoring Meditation

Beginning Meditation – Getting Started 3 – Breath Following 2

Beginning Meditation – Getting Started 2 – Breath Following 1

Today we will begin to discuss other meditation techniques and practices, starting with Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM). This is a simple but very powerful practice. We’d appreciate hearing comments and suggestions from others. There are many paths!

Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM) is designed to develop kindness and compassion to oneself and others. This is a seemingly ridiculously simple technique, but research has demonstrated that it is very impactful. This is true even if you are already a kind and compassionate person. Engaging in the practice will further reinforce and enhance it further. (see Loving Kindness Meditation and the Disease of the West

In western culture it is quite common for people to have a negative view of themselves, often feeling inadequate and unworthy or simply disliking themselves. So, for westerners, practicing loving kindness to themselves is particularly important. It is essential that we learn to be kind and compassionate toward ourselves. This is the foundation for honest and sincere kindness and compassion for others. So, pay particular attention to and carefully practice LKM toward the self.

LKM starts exactly like every meditation in a comfortable posture with the eyes lightly closed. Begin whatever meditation practice is your current practice and continue for a couple of minutes until you feel calm and focused. Then begin by bringing lovingkindness to yourself. Envision a time when you felt completely loved and accepted. Let yourself fully engage in the memory, feeling what it was like, feeling the inner sensations and the ease of well-being. Once you have this fully present begin slowly and meaningfully to say to yourself while maintaining the lovingkindness feelings:

“May I be happy. May I be well. May I be safe. May I be peaceful and at ease.”

With each statement use the lovingkindness feelings to reinforce the wish to yourself. Wholeheartedly engage in honestly wishing yourself well and visualize how it would feel to truly be happy, well, safe, and peaceful. Sincerely make these wishes in the unshakable knowledge that you deserve to be happy, well, safe, and peaceful. Repeat the process around three times. But, you can adjust this as you get experience with the meditation to a number that is comfortable and seems appropriate to you.

After completing sending lovingkindness to yourself move on to wishing lovingkindness to others. Start with someone who you are close to and care deeply about. Visualize that person and hold him/her in your heart and repeat the lovingkindness phrases with sincerity, truly wishing them well. Repeat the process around three times.

Now move on again to a person you know who may be going through hard times and difficult challenges. Visualize that person and hold him/her in your heart and repeat the lovingkindness phrases with a heartfelt desire that they feel happy, well, safe, and peaceful. Repeat the process again around three times.

Next move on to someone you know but are not particularly close or have strong feelings about, perhaps a neighbor or a work associate. Visualize that person and hold him/her in your heart and repeat the lovingkindness phrases with a heartfelt desire that they feel happy, well, safe, and peaceful. Visualize that your words actually take effect within that person. Repeat the process again around three times.

Finally comes the most challenging practice. Think of someone who you truly dislike or who has harmed you or simply someone who you have a particularly difficult time with. Visualize that person and hold him/her in your heart and repeat the lovingkindness phrases. See that person as a human being who, like everyone, needs happiness, wellness, safety, and peace. This may be difficult but recognize that for you to be a truly compassionate person you must really want everyone to be well, unconditionally.  Repeat the process again around three times.

Depending upon the length of your meditation you may repeat this whole process by going back to wishing happiness, wellness, safety, and peace to yourself, to a loved one, to someone in need, to a neutral person, and again to a disliked person.

There are many variations of the lovingkindness words. Find a set that feels comfortable, natural, and real for you, a set that you can repeat without having to think about it or search memory for the exact words. In fact the actual words don’t matter. It is the engagement in wishing well and really feeling it that is most important.

Try this practice. You may be amazed at how good it makes you feel and how much it alters your view and approach toward yourself and others. Remember that it is a practice and has to be engaged in repeatedly over time to be effective.

So, practice lovingkindness meditation and strengthen your compassionate nature.

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

Beginning Meditation – Getting Started 4 – Open Monitoring Meditation


In the last two posts we discussed breath meditation practice.


Today we will discuss open monitoring meditation. This is the next logical step in the development of your practice. We’d appreciate hearing comments and suggestions from others. There are many paths!

We left off with following the breath meditation practice. As we moved from counting every inbreath and every outbreath to silently following the sensations associated with breathing we moved from a very focused task with internal speech (counting) to a silent, much more unfocused, task of attending to all of the body sensations associated with breathing. The idea is to remove the mind from the process and thereby let the mind quiet.

Open monitoring meditation goes one step further. In this practice we open up our awareness to everything that we’re experiencing regardless of its origin. We still pay attention to the sensations associated with breathing but open it up further to all bodily sensations, including the feelings from the skin of touch, coldness or hotness, the pressure exerted by gravity on our rear ends sitting on the chair or cushion, tingling sensations on the skin and elsewhere, sensations from muscles and joints, sensations of balance and body position, the subtle feeling of our heart beating with the consequent blood pressure surges, and the feelings from our internal organs such as from our stomachs, bowels, bladder, etc.

In addition, we open up our awareness and pay attention to external stimuli, sights, sounds, tastes, and smells. Even with our eyes closed we can perceive visual stimulation, some due to light penetrating the eyelids and some due to spontaneous activity in the neural systems underlying vision. In open monitoring meditation we let it all into awareness and don’t try to focus on any one thing or exclude anything.

The openness extends to thoughts. Although we don’t try to engage in thinking, thoughts will inevitably arise anyway. In open monitoring meditation we don’t try to stop them. We just watch them rising up and falling away. As a friend remarked we let them in the front door and out the back and don’t serve them tea! We don’t judge them or censure ourselves for having them, no matter what their content. We just observe them and let them go.

There’s a lot going on and it is impossible to take it all in at once. You just let it happen. Let attention go where it may. But, don’t hold onto anything. Just let it naturally flow. Don’t try to pay attention to one thing or another. Just let whatever captures attention capture it and allow it to shift whenever it does. Don’t judge the experiences that you have as pleasant or unpleasant, good or bad, right or wrong, interesting or dull. Just experience them as they are.

As Adyashanti likes to say, we simply “let everything be as it is.” This sounds simple but it is devilishly difficult. The mind easily drifts away and our mind wanders. There is nothing to hold it, nothing to entertain it, so it wanders away. This meditation involves frequent mind wandering. This is different than simply watching the thoughts. You’ve been taken away by your thought and aren’t watching them, you’ve become them. But, don’t worry. This is what happens normally and to some extent will continue even after years of practice. When you notice this happening, just gently return to your open awareness feeling grateful for reentering a peaceful state.

Be patient, slowly but surely, the mind wandering will happen less and less often for shorter and shorter periods and open monitoring will increase in duration. All of the mind activity will slowly dissipate and you’ll open up to a beautiful, peaceful, quiet experience.

After you’ve completed the proscribed length of the meditation again review your experience. Ask yourself what thoughts arose and why. It may be as simple as some sight or sound captured your attention and the mind followed, dwelled on it, and free associated to it. But often there are repeating themes that can be seen as indicative of your wants and needs or unresolved issues. It can be very illuminating to follow up on these. Ponder them for they can be very revealing.

Often during the meditation you will begin to go deep into the experience when suddenly the mind takes over and tries to control the experience. This sometimes occurs with an overt sensation of fear. Take a careful look at this. The mind may be acting as if it’s threatened and doesn’t want you to proceed further. This is a wonderful indicator that you’re really making progress. You may not think so, but it is. Deep, deep, meditative states are often resisted by the mind. When this happens take it as a sign that you’re on the right track.

The mind will often subtly silently take control and direct your attention to one thing or another. It takes some experience to detect the difference from true free open experience and that directly silently behind the scenes by the mind. You may think that you’re doing exactly what you’re supposed to be. The mind can be tricky. Stay with your practice and persevere. These mind takeovers will occur less and less often.

Practice open monitoring meditation and begin to see things simply as they are.


Beginning Meditation – Getting Started 3 – Breath Following 2


In the last post we discussed breath meditation practice as a beginning point for the development of meditation.

Today we will discuss breath meditation further and suggest some next steps. We’d appreciate hearing comments and suggestions from others. There are many paths!

After you feel comfortable with counting the breaths on both the inhale and the exhale, the next step is to just count on the exhale and do not count on the inhale. So, it becomes inhale, exhale “one”, inhale, exhale “two”, etc. up to ten and then back to one. This is slightly more difficult than counting on both inhale and exhale as this provides the mind more opportunity to drift off.

You will note that we used the expression when “you feel comfortable with” as opposed to when “you master.” This is because you probably will never completely master any of the practices. That is not the point. The techniques are aides to quieting the mind and they work to a degree. But, the mind is far more out of control than can be tamed by these simple methods. Just look for progress, where the mind becomes quieter than it previously was. Don’t expect to perfect it, or even do it very well, just develop longer periods of quiet over time.

You can probably extrapolate what the next step should be after you become comfortable with counting the outbreaths only. You begin to just follow the breathing without counting at all. In this practice you try to pay close and continuous attention to all of the sensations associated with breathing. You pay attention to the movement of you belly, diaphragm, and chest as they expand and contract. You pay attention to the sensations of the air moving through your nostrils and windpipe. It’s simply paying attention to all of the sensations arising from the process of breathing. You can even take note of how the sensations in your belly arise and fall and then for a moment disappear only to reappear shortly after.

This like all of the preceding practices is focused, but there is now a wider focus on the entire process of breathing and all of the sensations arising from throughout the body as you breathe. This is even more difficult to maintain. At the beginning there is a lot to occupy the mind, but as you continue the mind gets bored and inevitably drifts away. As we tell everyone, be prepared to fail. This form of meditation is a continuous process of focus, mind wandering, detecting that the mind has wandered away and a return to focus.

Don’t feel bad. This is what happens to everyone. Just look for a slow increase in the amount of time you are focused and a decrease in the time spent mind wandering. This can take a while, sometimes many weeks. But, if you stick with it, it will happen. It is sometimes a good strategy when your mind is busy and focus is difficult to return to the previous practice of counting the breaths for a brief period to regain focus and then go back to simply following the sensations of breathing.

At the end of each session, spend a few minutes reviewing what you have just experienced. You can note as before that is extremely difficult to control your mind. Look though at what you’re trying to do. You’re asking your mind to control your mind. You’re trying to use an uncontrollable entity to control an uncontrollable entity. No wonder you repeatedly fail.

Eventually in meditation practice you will need to completely give up trying to control the mind. But, this is for a later practice. For now, do the best you can trying to quiet the wild creature that you call your mind.



Beginning Meditation – Getting Started 2 – Breath Following 1


 “Meditation is to the mind what aerobic exercise is to the body. Like exercise, there are many good ways to do it and you can find the one that suits you best.” – Rick Hanson.

 In the last post we discussed some thoughts on various meditation positions to use in beginning meditation.

Today we will discuss what meditation technique you should use in starting out with practice. We’d appreciate hearing comments and suggestions from others. There are many paths!

 “The best meditation of all is . . . the one you will do.” – Rick Hanson.

There are literally thousands of meditation techniques and it can be very confusing sorting out which are best for you. We recommend, though, that you start out with a very simple form of focused meditation; following the breath. Later we encourage you to explore some of the other forms of meditation to discover what works best for you and your particular goals. We’ll be discussing some of the other techniques in future posts.

Keep in mind that the most fundamental goal of meditation is to quiet the mind, to quiet the incessant internal voice that is constantly giving instructions, criticizing, planning, ruminating, and just simply jabbering in a repetitive and persistent fashion. The basic idea is to reduce this implicit speech, quieting the mind so that everything else that is here in the present moment becomes much more aware.

Following the breath is a great way to begin. It is simple, yet it can be very effective. The mind is always looking for something to do. Following the breath gives it something to do and can thus be of great assistance in quieting the mind. Later, you should begin to withdraw from giving the mind even this simple task to do as doing this tends to reinforce the mind’s belief that it can control everything and the implicit speech that is doing the counting. But, for now, we can use it against itself.

The breath is always there. So it can be used as a meditative anchor regardless of what else may be going on, where you are, or the state of your body. It is obvious and thus doesn’t take any special ability to notice and follow it. Even when you’re a very advanced meditator starting a meditation following the breath is helpful in centering and moving into another form of meditation or when concentration drifts, as it inevitably will, the breath provides a wonderful reentry point to transition back to the current meditation.

To begin a focused breath meditation, sit in your preferred posture, in a quiet place, and close your eyes and relax. Let your breathing be natural. Do not try to control it. Your task will be simply to watch it. Every time you breathe in or breathe out count, starting at one and continuing up to ten. Breathe in count “one”, breathe out count “two”, breathe in count “three”, breathe out count “four”, etc. until you get to “ten” then return to “one and begin again. That’s all you do. It’s that simple.

As you continue this simple task, your experience will be a revelation! You will inevitably find that very quickly your mind drifts away from counting the breaths and engages in all kinds of thoughts, perhaps plans for the future of reviewing the past or in response to some event in the immediate environment. Regardless, you mind drifts away from its designated task. When that happens, as it often will, and you recognize that your mind has drifted off, simply return to counting the breaths, either picking up where you left off or starting again at “one”.

It is important that you don’t feel recriminations for going off task. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Understand that this is normal and happens to everyone, even experienced meditators. Instead, congratulate yourself on detecting it and return to you object of focus, the breath. Gently go back to counting the breath, feeling good that you’re returning.

Don’t be surprised if you lose concentration before you can even get to finish the first ten. Don’t be surprised if this happens over and over again. It will and it will for many meditations to come. Just know that this is the natural course of meditation and is perfectly normal.

Continue the meditation, following the breath, drifting off, going back to the breath, drifting off, going back to the breath etc. until the allotted time is over.

Following the meditation it is useful not to immediately get up and resume your day but to spend a few minutes reflecting upon what you have just experienced. There is a tremendous insight just waiting to be noticed; you cannot control your mind. Given the task to control your mind performing a very simple task over a very brief period of time, you find that it is almost impossible to do. Reflect on this fact. It is very important and the beginning of the wisdom that emerges from meditation.

In the next post, we’ll discuss the next steps in developing your meditation.


Beginning Meditation – Getting Started 1 – Positions


Meditation allows us to directly participate in our lives instead of living life as an afterthought.” ~Stephen Levine


In the last couple of posts we presented some thoughts on things to consider prior to beginning meditation.

Today we will discuss finding a comfortable position for meditation. We’d appreciate hearing comments and suggestions from others. There are many paths!

It is essential for successful meditation that you find a comfortable position that you can maintain throughout the meditation period. It shouldn’t be so comfortable that you’re liable to fall asleep, or so uncomfortable or painful that you can’t relax and pay attention to something else other than the pain or how uncomfortable you are. You should adopt a position that you can sustain comfortably and pain free for the entire duration of your practice. Keep in mind that being a little uncomfortable at the beginning may be OK as you’ll adapt to it and it will get more comfortable as you continue practice. But, don’t endure pain. Back off if it hurts.

Sitting cross legged on a cushion on the floor or a meditation pad (lotus or half-lotus position) can be challenging for many. If you can do it comfortably then this is the position that you should use as it is a highly recommended position for meditation. See for descriptions of the various positions. Here is a link to an excellent video entitled “How to Sit For Meditation – Meditation Postures”

But we recommend that you don’t adopt this position initially if it is not comfortable. You can work on it later. But, many people will either not try meditation or stop after only a few sessions because they find this lotus or half-lotus position too challenging or painful. It is more important to meditate comfortably than to adopt an uncomfortable position even one that is highly desirable and recommended.

Another alternative is a kneeling posture. This is the posture that I personally prefer. It is comfortable for me and it leaves my spine straight and my breathing unrestricted. But, everyone has to find the correct on for their body and flexibility. Here is a link to an excellent video entitled “Using a Meditation Bench” Often people find a kneeling posture difficult to maintain and painful to the knees. It, like all meditation postures requires practice. If it’s not comfortable to you initially, then don’t use it. You can experiment with it later.

For initial practice we like to recommend sitting in a chair. This should not be considered as the position that you stay with forever. Rather, it is a simple place to start. Here is a link to an excellent video entitled “Meditation for Beginners -Sitting on a Chair”

Regardless find a position in which your spine is straight and the head sitting evenly on top of the spine. It should be like there’s a string hung from the ceiling that goes through the top of your head and without bend continues down the spine to the pelvis. The fewer restrictions there are on your breathing the better. So, try to find a position where the back behind your lungs is free and unrestricted. Better yet are positions where there is nothing touching the back. Try to adopt a position with the neck straight above the spine with the chin tucked in slightly to minimize the strain on the neck. But, most importantly, find a position that you can stay in comfortably for the duration of your meditation session.