Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Simple, but not easy.

I've just been listening to an interview with Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn,who founded the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Mass Medical School.  He's also the author of many books on mindfulness, including 'Wherever you go - there you are.'  Such a good book title, becuase it's true...dammit! 

I haven't read any of Kabat-Zinn's books yet, but, after this interview  I'll be tracking some down. He seems to be an excellent communicator, describing meditation as 'simple, but not easy,'  and saying the process of meditation is about 'bringing out own shadow back into the light.' 

Part of the interview was about some common misconceptions about meditation.   If I ever write a book about meditation it'll be called 'It's not about the breath'  - becuase I spent about 10 years fixated on the idea that clinging rigidly to my breath (and slaying my thoughts and feelings) was what meditation was all about.  Doh!  So, these misconceptions abound, and I don't think they're addressed often enough in meditation classes, or teachings. 

Here are Kabat-Zin's top three meditation misconceptions - 

1) Meditation is 'kind of like making your mind go blank,' so you'll be like a 'glowing, lightbulb of happiness,' with no worries or thoughts.  This is a misconception;  meditation is about really getting us in touch with all of life -  not being blank, or empty. 

2) The aim of meditation is to achieve a state of pure bliss. A lot of what we experience moment-to-moment isn't blissful.  We can aim to chase a certain state, like bliss, overlooking the fact that the bliss comes from  just being in contact with life as it is. State-chasing can result in a lot of frustration and confusion in meditation practice.

3) Meditation involves stopping.  Yes, formal meditation does involve stopping, but it's possible to meditate running, chopping vegetables, making love.  We don't have to stop our lives to meditate. We can meditate wherever we are, however we're feeling.

Interesting stuff.  I wish I'd listened to this interview when I began my meditation practice. But, hey, maybe learning the hard way is my karma.  (What the hell did I do in my last life?  I hope it was fun, that's all I can say.)

Here is a list of Kabat-Zinn's books -

  • Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain and Illness (Dell, 1990)
  • Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life (Hyperion, 1994)
  • Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting (Hyperion, 1997) 
  • Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness (Hyperion, 2005)
  • The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness (with Williams, Teasdale, and Segal - Guildford, 2007)

Temple - Chiang Mai, Thailand

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