If you’ve ever tried to sit and meditate, you know what she means. I talk to so many people who say as soon as they sit to be quiet, their minds go wonky with talk bubbles popping up from The Committee. This happens to me, too.
I use different strategies to settle that down. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. One strategy is to picture a glass of murky, sand-swirled water. I watch as the sand settles on the bottom of a glass and the water becomes clear. I hope my mind gets the metaphor. Most simply, I repeat “in” and breathe in, and “out” while I breathe out until the mind chatter slows.
You hear through ever-increasing portals that meditation can change your life. I agree. It can make your brain bigger, say the scientists. It can increase attention, decrease tension, make you live longer, do your laundry. (Just seeing if your tracking.) And now I’m seeing it paired up as a dance partner to the Mindfulness Movement.
The interesting thing is that in the West we don’t know much about the mind. We throw the term “mindful” around, but there’s not much education on that mind. (I mean did you ever have a class in “What is the Mind?” I know I didn’t.) I watched a documentary this week called “Spiritual Revolution” which reports some startling facts about our mind knowledge. They speak about how only in recent years has the medical community began to study the brain, and more importantly, the mind. Dr. Daniel Siegel, a professor at UCLA Medical School and Director of Mindsight Institute, teaches over 60,000 mental health practitioners. He has recently began asking these two questions at seminars.
- How many of you have ever had a seminar defining the mind?
- How many of you have had a single seminar defining mental health?
To the first question, only 2 – 5% of mental health professionals raise their hands. To the second question, only 3 – 5%. That means over 95% of mental health professionals HAVE NEVER had a single seminar defining the mind or mental health.
I find this mind-boggling.
These are the professionals we look to most carefully for answers on these topics in the West. The truth, it seems, is they don’t have the information either. Other parts of the world look to other philosophies to understand the ways of the mind. For example, the documentary goes on to look at Buddha as the original psychotherapist. His search was for happiness, alleviation of suffering, and ultimate well-being. He was the ultimate “mindfulness” guy.
Today, we see the term “mindful” and variations thereof everywhere. There are mindful snacks, there is mindful eating, there are mindfulness seminars, there are even mindful schools for kids and teens such as Innerkids in Los Angeles that teach kids how to settle themselves in an unsettling world. “Mindfulness” is used widely and hails from Behaviorist Theory. But what exactly is it and where do you get it, this mindfulness medicine?
In my own experience, the best place to understand mindfulness is in my own silence and meditation. I think this because if I am not doing those things daily, my mind is not as present and focused the rest of the hours I’m awake. I can not listen as well on all levels (sometimes any level) to other people. I lose things easier. I find myself less grateful for the small things that I notice when I’m more balanced and mindful. It’s a key step in what feels to me like mindful being.
When facing a stair, our English friends tell us to Mind the Step. There’s a connection there. By paying attention, and being mind-full, we can get to where we’re going in a better way without falling on our faces.