Exactly what is the Present Moment?

Exactly what is the Present Moment?

impermanence

The practice of mindfulness is fundamentally concerned with becoming more aware of the present moment. Mindfulness techniques such as observing the breath, walking meditation, working meditation, eating meditation, scanning the body, mindful writing, deep listening, mindfully cradling our thoughts and feelings, and observing mind with mind, are all methods of cultivating an awareness of the ‘here and now’. In effect, these techniques are a type of ‘meditative anchor’ that help to slow the mind down and provide a reference point for maintaining an unbroken flow of awareness throughout the day. As we discussed in our post on ‘Mindwithness’, the word mindfulness, which is a translation of the Pali word sati, essentially means ‘to remember’ (i.e., ‘to remember’ to be aware of the present moment). However, believe it or not, from the Buddhist perspective, the whole point of remembering to become aware of the present moment is so that we can remember to let go of it.

Having made great efforts to follow the meditation instructor’s teachings and strive to be aware of the present moment, to now hear that we should ultimately be aiming to let go of the present moment might seem a little confusing or even alarming. However, if we take a moment to investigate what actually constitutes the present moment and whether it actually exists, then these words may start to take on more meaning.

In a recent paper we published in Thresholds, we argued that if a person wants to become proficient in the practice of mindfulness, then they need to “have some grounded realisation of the true and absolute mode in which the present moment exists”. Most teachings on mindfulness explain that the present moment is the moment of time that exists between the past and future, and since the future never arrives and the past is history, then the only place where we can truly experience life is the present moment. From the conventional or relative perspective, this statement is perfectly true. As we discussed in our post on Life is a Precious Happening, if, like most people, we allow the mind to constantly ruminate about the past or fantasise about the future, then before we know it our lives will have slipped us by in a blur of unawareness.

However, from the absolute perspective, the above affirmation of an identifiable and intrinsically-existing present moment is untenable. Imagine you decide to take a trip to the countryside and have a picnic in your favourite tree-lined spot next to a river. From the time of your arrival until the time you pick up your picnic basket and start to make your way home, we’re sure it won’t come as a surprise to you to hear that you have not been sitting in a static environment. At any given instant when you found yourself gazing at the river, you were observing a dynamic and continuously flowing phenomenon. Thus, between any given instant of time and the next, the river undergoes change. However, not only does the river change between two separate instances of time, but it also changes within the same instant of time. The reason for this is because time is a relative concept, it is a man-made construct that human-beings employ to try to add structure and order to their world.

The truth is, any given moment of time can be continuously divided into ever smaller instants – and this process of division can continue ad infinitum. For example, a second can be divided by 1000 to form a millisecond, and a millisecond can be further divided to form a microsecond (one millionth of a second). However, the microsecond can be divided to form an attosecond (one quintillionth of a second), and the attosecond can be divided to form a yoctosecond (one septillionth of a second). But even the yoctosecond can be divided again and again. Scientists call the shortest physically meaningful moment of time a Planck. The Planck is an indescribably fleeting moment of time. It is 5.4×10-44 seconds to be exact – which is even quicker than the time it takes the novice monks to arrive in the dining hall after they hear the gong sound to announce that it’s meal time. Although it’s difficult to imagine the brevity of a Planck, the fact is that the Planck could also be divided into infinitely smaller and smaller units of time.

So returning to the river analogy, not even for the most miniscule moment of time could we say that the river ever stands still. It’s not just rivers that are subject to this continuous process of change, but every single phenomenon that we encounter. In many respects, we could actually view the present moment and all that it contains as one enormous flowing river. A graceful and swirling flood of interwoven mind and matter that continuously flows yet never actually goes anywhere. Now then, as we discussed in our post about the practice of impermanence, here is where an opportunity to make a small intuitive leap arises. If there is never a point in time when the river stands still, how can a thing that doesn’t ever become static undergo any change? Change implies that something changes from one state or position to another. But since phenomena never truly come to rest in a fixed state, then it is illogical to assert that such a transient and ‘permanently unfixed’ entity can undergo change. That which never is cannot be said to change between one moment of time and next.

This method of investigating the present moment stems from a certain system of Buddhist philosophy and is perhaps a little mind-boggling. So don’t worry if you feel you’re getting left behind. There are many other keys that can be used to help you catch a glimpse of reality. Essentially, what we are trying to get at is quite simple:  the present moment is just a concept. It doesn’t exist in the manner in which we have accustomed ourselves to believing. The present relies for its existence on the notions of past and future. But earlier in this post we already discussed that the future is a fantasy that never actually arrives (because it is always the present), and the past exists as nothing other than a memory – it has no substance. So if there is no future and no past, then how can it be said that there is a present?

It’s not the case that these ideas are just crazy theories hatched-out by peculiar Buddhist teachers living thousands of years ago. In fact, in recent years, there have been some break-through scientific discoveries that have begun to verify the validity of such theories. For example, for a number of decades now, quantum theorists have posited that at the sub-atomic level, there can never be absolute certainty that a particle exists at a given position in time or space. This effectively implies that it is possible for sub-atomic particles to exist in multiple places simultaneously and to be nowhere and everywhere at the same time. However, until recently, there was no observable scientific proof for this theory. This changed in 2010 when a team of physicists, led by Professor Andrew Cleland of the University of California Santa Barbara, published in the journal Nature the results of an experiment that demonstrated that a tiny metal paddle made of semi-conductor material (just visible to the human eye) can simultaneously vibrate in two different energy states. In kinetic terms, this is equivalent to being in two different places at the same time.

Another interesting area of quantum mechanics that seems to add validity to a number of long-standing Buddhist principles regarding the nature of reality is that of String Theory. String Theory, a topic frequently discussed by physicists such as Professor Stephen Hawking, basically asserts that reality has multiple dimensions to it. This is very similar to models taught in certain systems of Buddhist cosmology that assert that there are multiple world systems and world dimensions in addition to our own. Although String Theory is still quite limited from the Buddhist perspective (because it restricts the number of concurrently-existing dimensions to just eleven), it is a major leap forward in terms of establishing a common ground between modern science and Buddhist thought. So the next time you collect your mind and bring it to rest in the present moment, perhaps you should ask yourself exactly in which present moment you are currently dwelling.

Perhaps in years to come discoveries in the field of quantum mechanics will narrow the gap between Buddhism and science even further. Perhaps scientists will discover that a single universe can contain an infinite number of multi-dimensional universes and that infinite expanses of time can exist within a single second. Rather than thinking about existence as something that began at the time of the big-bang, perhaps scientists will start to view the birth and death of our universe as just a small blip in a beginningless and eternally enduring cycle of formation and dissolution. Just a single phase of expansion and contraction within the realm of unconditioned truth (Sanskrit: dharmadatu). This would help to transcend the limiting notion of there being a fixed beginning and a definite end. Without a beginning and an end, the whole construct of time falls apart. Then, instead of concepts such as past and future or beginning and end, perhaps we would have to use other words to describe existence such as ‘isness’, ‘thatness’, or ‘suchness’.

You may find the idea of simultaneously existing present moments or simultaneously existing dimensions to be a bit far-fetched. But it’s actually not that difficult to imagine and there are plenty of more accessible examples that we can use to help us do so. For instance, there are approximately seven billion people currently living on this planet. Each person is completely different and experiences the present moment in a unique manner. So that’s seven billion different present moments that are simultaneously happening right here and now. It’s an inexpressibly greater number if you consider all of the present moments experienced by other sentient life forms such as animals and insects.

The whole point of what we have been discussing so far is to introduce the idea that the present moment may not exist exactly how we think it does, or that it may not exist at all. If we can adopt a slightly less rigid view of things then we have a much greater chance of being able to transcend limiting concepts such as the present moment. Please don’t misunderstand what is being said here, we’re not advising that people should stop practising mindfulness and become content with living a life of corpse-like unawareness. That’s definitely not what is needed. Rather, what we’re suggesting is that in order to truly taste and embrace the essence of the present moment, we have to relinquish any kind of attachment to it. Mindfulness helps to bring the mind into the present moment, but that’s only half the work. Having allowed the mind to settle into an awareness of the here and now, we then need to make a small intuitive leap and pierce through the present moment to taste the underlying fabric of reality itself. As we discussed in our post on the Top Ten Mistakes Made by Meditation Practitioners, it’s not the case that we should make extreme efforts or strain ourselves in order to do this. Rather, just by relaxing the mind and being open to the possibility of a reality beyond our current manner of perceiving, we already begin to dispel some of the mental obscurations that prevent this self-existing truth from emerging.

So when you observe your breath during meditation practice, rather than just follow the breath in and out, you might like to try observing the space and time between the in-breath and the out-breath (and between the out-breath and the in-breath). As you allow the mind to come to rest in its natural state and begin to let go of the normal conceptual mode of perceiving things, you may begin to notice that the space and time between your in-breath and out-breath starts to expand exponentially. With a single breath in and out you can experience an entire lifetime, your view can extend beyond the limits of space and time. The boundary between you the observer and the present moment that is being observed can start to disintegrate. Perceiver and perceived can merge as one. Perhaps we could say that this is the difference between ‘being in’ the present moment and simply ‘being’ the present moment. Be alive by living in the present moment, but liberate yourself completely by letting go of it.

Ven Edo Shonin and Ven William Van Gordon

Further Reading

Gyatso, T. (XIV Dalai Lama) (1985, 1989). Hopkins, Jeffrey, ed. Kalachakra Tantra: Rite of Initiation for the Stage of Generation, a Commentary on the text of Kay-drup-ge-lek-bel-sang-bo by Tenzin Gyatso, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, and the Text Itself . London: Wisdom Publications

Lieu, R., & Hillman, L.W. (2003). The phase coherence of light from extragalactic sources: Direct evidence against first-order planck-scale fluctuations in time and space. The Astrophysical Journal, 585, L77-L80.

Hawking, S. (2005). A Briefer History of Time. Reinbek (Germany): Rowohlt

Hawking, S. & Mlodinow, L., (2011). The Grand Design. London: Bantam

Hawking, S. (Ed). (2011). The dreams that stuff is made of: The most astounding papers of quantum physics – and how they shook the scientific world. Philadelphia: Running Press

O’Connell, A.D., Hofheinz, M., Ansmann, M., …. & Cleland, A.N. (2010). Quantum ground state and single-phonon control of a mechanical resonator. Nature, 464, 697-703.

Penrose, R. (2006). The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe. London: Vintage.

Shonin, E., Van Gordon, W., & Griffiths, M. D. (2013). Mindfulness-based therapy: A tool for Spiritual Growth? Thresholds. Summer Issue, 14-18.

Acknowledgment: This post was used as a platform for developing themes, insights, and elucidations to be included in an expanded article written for the Mindfulness in Practice section of the journal Mindfulness.

Mindwithness

practice 3Mindwithness!

The Pali word for mindfulness is sati (Sanskrit: smrti). Although the term ‘mindfulness’ is the most popular rendition of sati, the word sati actually means ‘to remember’ (i.e., ‘to remember’ to be aware of the present moment). In fact, the term mindfulness doesn’t really capture the full intended meaning of sati. The main reason for this is because to be ‘mindful’ indicates that one should be ‘full of mind’. Being full of mind implies that there is a lot of mental activity and cognitive exertion. However, when we practice mindfulness, we’re not aiming to fill ourselves up with too much mind. Having our minds full-up all of the time becomes very stressful and tiring. Too many people have their minds full-up. If our minds are too full then there is no room for wholesome thoughts to grow and flourish. In a full mind there is no space for simply being, and there is no emptiness to nurture and refresh our being.

Therefore, rather than endeavouring to remain mindful, perhaps the meditation practitioner should actually be trying to achieve a state of ‘mindlessness’. However, being ‘mindless’ equally doesn’t quite capture the essence of sati because rather than being without the mind, what we are attempting to achieve during sati practice is to be fully ‘with the mind’. Perhaps ‘mindwithness’ is therefore a better term to describe the practice of sati!

Nowadays, more and more people are becoming interested in the practice of mindfulness and people are beginning to make a living from teaching mindfulness. From one point of view, this could be a good thing. If people are truly living meditatively then it will certainly be beneficial for the individual as well as for society as a whole. However, from another point of view, trying too hard to ‘spread’ the teachings of mindfulness may actually contribute to the decline of the Buddhist teachings.

Let us give an example to explain what we mean by this. Recently, we were giving a series of talks about meditation and Buddhism in India. It just so happened that at one of the conference venues, a mindfulness and yoga retreat was also taking place. It was really easy to identify which people were involved in the retreat because, with the exception of just one or two participants, they all behaved in a similar way. The retreat participants would walk around the grounds with an air of superiority, with their hands cupped together and held in front of them, head half bent to the side, and with a ‘holier than thou’ smile permanently fixed across their faces. The only exception to this behaviour was when they thought they were out of public view and would slouch around or gossip about their fellow participants.

Mindfulness practice should enable us to become more familiar with the chaotic and unruly nature of the untamed mind. The idea is that we begin to appreciate just how much ego is involved in each and every one of our thoughts and perceptions. It’s when we begin to become aware of the extent to which ego has overwhelmed the mind that we can take steps to loosen ego’s hold. Effectively then, the practice that the abovementioned retreat participants were making was just for show. They were trying to be fashionable and keep-up with the latest spiritual trend. Indeed, for these people, rather than a means of spiritual development, their (so called) practice of ‘mindfulness’ was actually acting as an obstacle to spiritual growth. Their practice was reinforcing the ego rather than dismantling it.

So we should definitely try to be natural in our practice of mindfulness. We should try to be honest with ourselves and check to see whether we are the type of person who varies their practice depending on who might be looking. It is also useful for us to check whether we are straining too hard to be mindful. Indeed, rather than straining too hard, we should try to adopt a relaxed and spacious approach. Using your breath as an anchor if you like, try to expand your mindful awareness so that it encompasses the entire present moment. Try and make the ‘here and now’ your object of meditation. Whatever is happening right now – that becomes your practice. This includes external phenomena such as sounds and sights, as well as internal noumina such as thoughts and feelings. Effortlessly incorporate them all into your field of awareness – without any separation between you the observer and the object that you are observing. In other words, rather than trying to remain aware of the present moment, just try to simply be the present moment.

Ven Edo Shonin and Ven William Van Gordon

Teaching Mindfulness to Children

Teaching Mindfulness to Children

evidence

Clicca qui per Italiano

Along with a friend and colleague of ours – Professor Mark Griffiths – we recently published an article in the journal of Education and Health about the health benefits of mindfulness for children and adolescents. In our paper, we made reference to an on-going debate amongst scientists regarding the most appropriate age to teach mindfulness to children. For example, some scientists are of the view that children are developmentally suited to be taught mindfulness from around 7-8 years old. Other scientists believe that a child’s concentration span is too underdeveloped at this age and that mindfulness should not be taught to children until they are 12-14 years old.

These different scientific standpoints offer interesting perspectives on the most appropriate time to introduce children to the practice of mindfulness. However, from the Buddhist view, the best time to teach mindfulness to children is right now. In other words, the earlier a child is introduced to mindfulness the better. The idea of teaching mindfulness to very young children may sound a bit strange, but perhaps less so if one is prepared to think outside of the box (or outside of the classroom) a little.

Conducting classroom sessions or giving individual instruction is only one way of teaching mindfulness. Another way is for the teacher or parent to just simply be mindful. In our teaching and research of mindfulness and meditation (whether with children or adults), something we observe again and again is that students place a great deal of importance on the extent to which the instructor or teacher is able to impart an embodied authentic experience of mindfulness. Put differently, if the person teaching mindfulness is on some kind of spiritual trip, or their experience is limited to information they have derived from reading a few books or from attending a few meditation retreats, then children tend to notice this and become less receptive. On the other hand, a parent or teacher who is ‘well-soaked’ in meditation is teaching from an experiential standpoint. They naturally exert a reassuring presence that helps children to relax and connect with their own capacity for spiritual awareness.

An analogy sometimes used in the Buddhist teachings is that the person teaching mindfulness should be like a graceful swan. The swan is confident and elegant in the way it moves. It glides effortlessly through the water without disturbing it too much. When a parent is mindful of their being, when they walk around the home fully conscious of each and every breath and each and every step, then they assume a calming presence that naturally pervades the entire household. When a child observes their mother or father living gently, having time for life and for one another, and not rushing their lives away, then happiness grows in the child’s heart and they feel secure and cradled by their parents’ spiritual presence.

Rather than lots of individuals living separate and fragmented lives within the same household, the family becomes a real home once again. Family members are happy to sit and truly enjoy each other’s company without needing to be constantly plugged into computer games or television shows. The children naturally begin to think, speak, and act with clarity and awareness. They shine with joy and happiness which is the greatest gift a parent can bestow upon them.

When this wholesome living environment has been cultivated effectively, the home becomes a place of spiritual refuge and nourishment.  In these circumstances there’s no real need to sit down and instruct the child in how to practice mindfulness because mindfulness has become a part of their being. Giving instructions in this manner would be like teaching a child how to walk after they have already learned to do so. The child understands intuitively what it means to be awake to the present moment and doing so becomes as natural as riding a bicycle.

Please don’t misunderstand what is being said here. We are not saying that children should not be instructed in how to practice mindfulness. Unfortunately, the family environment that we outlined above is not realistic for many children and therefore other methods of teaching mindfulness are required. However, what we would like to emphasise is that without authenticity in the transmission of mindfulness teachings, then any beneficial effects are likely to be short-lived. Moreover, a person who teaches mindfulness without an experiential grounding can actually cause harm for all concerned.

Ven Edo Shonin & Ven William Van Gordon

Further Reading

Burke, C. A. (2010). Mindfulness-based approaches with children and adolescents: A preliminary review of current research in an emergent field. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 19, 133-144.

Duncan, L. G., & Bardacke, N. (2010). Mindfulness-based childbirth and parenting education: Promoting family mindfulness during the perinatal period. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 19, 190-202.

Flook, L., Smalley, S.L., Kitil, M.J., Galla, B., Kaiser-Greenland, S., Locke, et al. (2010). Effects of mindful awareness practices on executive functions in elementary school children. Journal of Applied School Psychology, 26, 70–95.

Mendelson, T., Greenberg, M.T., Dariotis, J.K., Feagans Gould, L., Rhoades, B.L., & Leaf, P.J. (2010). Feasibility and preliminary outcomes of a school-based mindfulness intervention for urban youth. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 38, 985-994.

Schonert-Reichl, K.A. & Lawlor, M.S. (2010). The effects of a mindfulness-based education program on pre- and early adolescents’ well-being and social emotional competance. Mindfulness, 1, 137-151.

Singh, N., Lancioni, G., Winton, A., Karazsia, B., & Singh, J. (2013). Mindfulness training for teachers changes the behavior of their preschool  students. Research in Human Development, 10, 211-233.

Shonin, E., Van Gordon, W., & Griffiths, M. D. (2012). The health benefits of mindfulness-based interventions for children and adolescents. Education and Health, 30, 94-97.

Thompson, M. & Gauntlett-Gilber, J. (2008). Mindfulness with children and adolescents: Effective clinical application. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 13, 395-407.

 

Insegnare mindfulness ai bambini

evidence

Insieme a una amica e collega nostra – Dr Giulia Cavalli – abbiamo recentemente pubblicato un articolo sulla rivista Educare03 sui benefici per la salute di mindfulness per bambini e adolescenti Nel nostro articolo, abbiamo fatto riferimento a un dibattito in corso tra gli scienziati per quanto riguarda l’età più appropriata per insegnare mindfulness ai bambini. Ad esempio, alcuni scienziati sono del parere che i bambini sono evolutivamente adatti per essere insegnato la mindfulness da circa 7-8 anni. Altri scienziati ritengono che la concentrazione di un bambino è troppo poco sviluppato a questa età e che la mindfulness non dovrebbe essere insegnata ai bambini fino a 12-14 anni.

Questi diversi punti di vista scientifici offrono interessanti prospettive sul momento più appropriato per introdurre i bambini alla pratica della mindfulness. Tuttavia, dal punto di vista buddista, il momento migliore per insegnare ai bambini la mindfulness è adesso – proprio in questo momento. In altre parole, prima un bambino viene introdotto alla mindfulness meglio é. L’idea di insegnare la mindfulness ai bambini molto piccoli può sembrare un po’ strano, ma forse meno se uno è disposto a pensare fuori della scatola (o fuori dell’aula) un po ‘. Lo svolgimento di sessioni in aula o dando istruzione individuale è solo un modo di insegnare la mindfulness. Un altro modo è per l’insegnante o il genitore di semplicemente essere mindful. Nel nostro insegnamento e ricerca di mindfulness e meditazione (sia con i bambini che con gli adulti), qualcosa che osserviamo di ripetutamente è che gli studenti pongono molto importanza alla misura in cui l’istruttore o insegnante è in grado di impartire un’autentica esperienza incarnata della mindfulness. In altre parole, se la persona che insegna la mindfulness è in una sorta di fantasia spirituale, o la loro esperienza è limitata alle informazioni che essi hanno tratto dalla lettura di qualche libro o di frequentare un paio di ritiri di meditazione, i bambini tendono a notare questo e diventano meno ricettivo D’altra parte, un genitore o un insegnante che è ‘ben saturato’ nella meditazione inmsegna dal punto di vista esperienziale. Essi naturalmente esercitano una presenza rassicurante che aiuta i bambini a rilassarsi e connettersi con la propria capacità di consapevolezza spiritual

Un’analogia a volte utilizzata negli insegnamenti buddisti è che la persona insegnamento consapevolezza dovrebbe essere come un cigno grazioso. Il cigno è fiducioso ed elegante nel modo in cui si muove. Si scivola senza sforzo attraverso l’acqua senza disturbarla troppo. Quando un genitore è consapevole del loro essere, quando camminano intorno alla casa completamente cosciente di ogni respiro e ogni passo, allora assumono una presenza calmante che naturalmente pervade l’intera famiglia. Quando un bambino osserva la madre o il padre che vive con delicatezza, che hanno tempo per la vita e per l’un l’atro, che non permettano la loro vita a scorrere via, allora la felicità cresce nel cuore del bambino e si sentono sicuri e cullati dalla presenza spirituale dei genitori.

Piuttosto che un sacco di individui che vivono una vita separata e frammentata all’interno della stessa famiglia, la famiglia diventa ancora una volta una vera casa. Membri della famiglia sono felici di sedersi e veramente godere della reciproca compagnia senza la necessità di essere costantemente collegato a giochi per computer o programmi televisivi. I bambini naturalmente iniziano a pensare, a parlare e agire con chiarezza e consapevolezza. Essi brillano con gioia e felicità che è il dono più grande che un genitore può dare loro.

Quando questo ambiente di vita sano è stato coltivato in modo efficace, la casa diventa un luogo di rifugio spirituale e di nutrimento. In queste circostanze non c’è alcuna necessità reale di sedersi e istruire il bambino a come mettere in pratica la mindfulness perché la mindfulness è diventata una parte del loro essere. Dare istruzioni in questo modo sarebbe come insegnare a un bambino come camminare dopo che il bambino ha già imparato a farlo. Il bambino capisce intuitivamente che cosa significhi essere sveglio al momento presente e facendo così diventa naturale come andare in bicicletta.

Si prega di non fraintendere ciò che viene detto qui. Non stiamo dicendo che i bambini non devono essere istruiti a come mettere in pratica mindfulness. Purtroppo, l’ambiente familiare che abbiamo descritto sopra non è realistico per molti bambini e pertanto sono necessari altri metodi di insegnamento della mindfulness. Tuttavia, ciò che vorremmo sottolineare è che senza autenticità nella trasmissione degli insegnamenti di mindfulness, eventuali effetti benefici rischiano di essere di breve durata. Inoltre, una persona che insegna consapevolezza senza un’adeguata esperienza in realtà può causare danno per tutti gli interessati.

Ven Edo Shonin & Ven William Van Gordon

Ulteriori letture

Burke, C. A. (2010). Mindfulness-based approaches with children and adolescents: A preliminary review of current research in an emergent field. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 19, 133-144.

Duncan, L. G., & Bardacke, N. (2010). Mindfulness-based childbirth and parenting education: Promoting family mindfulness during the perinatal period. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 19, 190-202.

Flook, L., Smalley, S.L., Kitil, M.J., Galla, B., Kaiser-Greenland, S., Locke, et al. (2010). Effects of mindful awareness practices on executive functions in elementary school children. Journal of Applied School Psychology, 26, 70–95.

Mendelson, T., Greenberg, M.T., Dariotis, J.K., Feagans Gould, L., Rhoades, B.L., & Leaf, P.J. (2010). Feasibility and preliminary outcomes of a school-based mindfulness intervention for urban youth. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 38, 985-994.

Schonert-Reichl, K.A. & Lawlor, M.S. (2010). The effects of a mindfulness-based education program on pre- and early adolescents’ well-being and social emotional competance. Mindfulness, 1, 137-151.

Shonin, E., Van Gordon, W., & Griffiths, M. D. (2012). The health benefits of mindfulness-based interventions for children and adolescents. Education and Health, 30, 94-97.

Thompson, M. & Gauntlett-Gilber, J. (2008). Mindfulness with children and adolescents: Effective clinical application. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 13, 395-407.

Carry your Meditation Cushion with You

Carry your Meditation Cushion with You

When you blow out your candles and stand up from your meditation cushion – that’s when your meditation practice starts. As meditators, we should try not to create a separation between formal meditation sessions and everyday living. In fact, it’s only when a person can retain their meditative awareness whilst, for example, travelling on a congested tube, writing at the computer, or watching the television that they can truly call themselves a meditation practitioner. That’s why some meditation teachers tell their students to carry their meditation cushions with them at all times.

There is a lot of scientific evidence that supports this approach to meditation practice. For example, in the psychological literature there is a concept known as ‘dispositional mindfulness’. Dispositional mindfulness refers to the natural or enduring level of mindfulness a person has rather than a temporary level that expires at the end of a given meditation session. Dispositional mindfulness is therefore sometimes referred to as a person’s ‘trait’ level of mindfulness rather than their ‘state’ level. Studies have shown that people with higher levels of dispositional mindfulness are less likely to be overcome by anxiety or stressful life situations1-3. Similarly, in our own research based on an eight-week meditation and mindfulness intervention known as Meditation Awareness training (MAT)4,5, those participants who best manage to integrate their mindfulness practice into daily living tend to be the ones who show the greatest improvements in overall levels of psychological and spiritual wellbeing.

Ven Edo Shonin,  & Ven William Van Gordon, 

References

  1. Brown, K. W., & Ryan, R. M. (2003). The benefits of being present: Mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 822-848.
  2. Lakey, C. E., & Campbell, W. K., Brown, K.W., Goodie, A.S. (2007). Dispositional Mindfulness as a Predictor of the Severity of Gambling Outcomes. Personality and Individual Differences, 43, 1698–1710
  3. Modinos, G., Ormel, J., & Aleman., A. (2010). Individual differences in dispositional mindfulness and brain activity involved in reappraisal of emotion. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 5, 369-377.
  4. Van Gordon, W., Shonin, E., Sumich, A., Sundin, E., & Griffiths, M.D. (2013). Meditation Awareness Training (MAT) for psychological wellbeing in a sub-clinical sample of university students: A controlled pilot study. Mindfulness. DOI: 10.1007/s12671-012-0191-5.
  5. Shonin, E., Van Gordon W., & Griffiths M. D. (2013). Meditation Awareness Training (MAT) for improved psychological wellbeing: A qualitative examination of participant experiences. Religion and Health. DOI: 10.1007/s10943-013-9679-0.