The first exposure I had to meditation was my sophomore year of college at Northeastern University. My professor started the practice of conducting a guided meditation in her class after having the opportunity to teach on Semester at Sea, where she discovered it. I was fully awake that first time. I blew it off.
One year later, I would find myself on Semester at Sea. In particular, we were visiting a manufacturing plant in India. After lunch, our group was offered a guided meditation. I was fully awake that second time too.
During both of these attempts at meditation, I spent the time questioning myself if I was doing it right. Was everyone else having the same experience I was? It didn’t appear so. Classmates found the exercise extremely enjoyable and relaxing. What was I doing wrong?
My quadriplegia is accompanied by nerve pain in my left arm, always present and sometimes intense. It is akin to burning your skin with fire, without the ability to escape. The reemergence of meditation in my life post disability was out of the need to decrease my pain and lower stress. I was motivated to learn more about meditation and find out what I was doing wrong in years past.
I always had a preconceived notion about meditation. I thought of it as sort of practice where you focus on nothing. I thought the idea of meditation was to block negative thoughts. I have since realized that this is not true, not the form of meditation that I’m learning.
Mindfulness meditation has come to my aid. With it, you acknowledge all of your thoughts and are giving techniques to keep you from dwelling on them. This in turn, creates a calm mind. Oversimplified, of course.
Here is what I have learned about mindfulness meditation.
- Mindfulness meditation is most alluring to me because it is not connected to any form of religion.
- I have found using the awareness of breath to be a great technique.
- Freeing my mind is a simple act of bringing awareness back to my breath or body.
- 20 minutes is easy.
- Practicing daily is challenging if you do not have a place that is quiet, where you can meditate uninterrupted (something I hope to fix soon).
I have come across many resources in my never-ending quest to understand mindfulness better and make it a daily practice. If you’re starting fresh, I recommend checking out some of the guided meditations around the awareness of breath. Here are some resources in no particular order.
- UC San Diego Health’s Center for Mindfulness: Guided Audio Files to Practice Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction
- Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World: Free Meditations from Mindfulness
- UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center: Free Guided Meditations
- Sam Harris: The Mirror of Mindfulness
- Mindfulness in Plain English