“He was a curious observer, nothing more.” This quote from the novel The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan Philipp-Sendker, speaks directly to Mindfulness. Blindness forces the main character, Tin Win, to develop his other senses. He relies on his extraordinary hearing to help him make his way in the world. Simply put, Tin Win pays attention. The practice of Mindfulness Meditation trains us to do just that. We learn to pay attention to the quality of our thoughts. We focus on the breath, the sounds and the sensations in the body.
MRI studies conducted by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital show that a regular meditation practice produces significant changes in the areas of the brain that control memory, stress and empathy. Scientists believe that a steady dose of mindfulness can actually change the neural pathways resulting in an improvement in overall health.
My decision to participate in the eight week Mindfulness Meditation training was both exciting and daunting. For some time now I have wanted to take this in-depth course developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. It seemed a logical adjunct to my Yoga teacher training. Many years and excuses later I decided to plunge in over the summer.
The commitment to daily practice is challenging. I am taking the course on Cape Cod where there are many distractions such as friends and family, food and fun. My husband and I have arranged our schedules in order to be here every week for the class. We are spending a lot of hours going back and forth over the bridge so finding time to do a thirty to forty minute body scan or seated meditation every day has not always been easy.
But after only 4 weeks, I began to see that something was happening with me. I’m more alert during the day and sleeping better at night. I’m becoming aware of how I deal with stress and physical discomfort or pain, diving into unpleasantness rather than backing away. Daily meditation combined with Yoga is providing me with an edge that wasn’t there before. I’m witnessing my life, paying attention to the details and like Tin Win, I am becoming a “curious observer”. Regardless of the challenges in your own life, perhaps this practice of Mindfulness could be a real game changer.
To learn more about the Center for Mindfulness at U. Mass Medical Center go to http://www.umassmed.edu/cfm/
Photos by Chris Primavera