As an on-again off-again meditator for years, I’ve often suggested the ancient art of “sitting still and doing nothing” to my friends and associates. The most common reply is that either they don’t know where to start, or have tried it and found it difficult or pointless. Recent scientific research has laid to rest any objections that meditation is pointless: the psychological and physical benefits are well documented, and forms of meditation are clinically effective in treating depression, anxiety disorder, bulemia, ADHD and other psychosomatic speed bumps so many people struggle with in the modern world.
I recently discovered a gentleman named Job Kabat-Zinn who has had great success not only introducing meditation into the western medical arena, but in framing meditation practice in a way that is extremely easy to understand. He is is Professor of Medicine Emeritus and founding director of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
Zinn (his name sounding like “Zen” probably helped his career) calls his form of practice “Mindful Meditation” and when I heard his approach the first time I said, “That’s it — that’s the meditation format that your average American can grasp!”
Zinn cuts to the chase and doesn’t require any lotus position, pillows or any of that stuff: you can just sit upright in a chair or do it wherever you like. As I often tell people, the traditions of meditation often obscure the simplicity of it for the modern person and make it seem silly. Meditation is not praying to a god or a religious act. It’s more like exercising or playing a musical instrument – it’s just a practice.
The primary method Zinn uses is focus on the breath, and does a wonderful job talking you through a proper understanding of how to practice a state of awareness without getting into mantras or other “kooky” stuff.
Below is a guided meditation session / talk Zinn gave on Google campus a few years ago. The beginning is a discussion of meditation followed by a guided meditation. For people getting started, I highly recommend using guided meditations by Zinn to help you understand the basic principles and to offer a little push in the right direction to do it.
I also have an mp3 of a simple guided mediation session available for friends who are interested. Please email me for more info.