In the midst of your chaotic and overly fast paced schedule, it's so important to be able to take a breather every once in a while for your health.
By learning to slow your breath and take a moment to feel fully present, mindfulness meditation can be extremely beneficial to your health.
What is mindfulness meditation?
Mindfulness meditation is one of the oldest forms of meditation in the Buddhist religion. This type of meditation involves your mind focusing only on the present.
What are some of the benefits of mindfulness meditation?
By practicing meditation, you're able to increase your blood flow and slow your heart rate, feel a deeper level of relaxation, reduce your stress, reduce anxiety, decrease your respiratory rate, and also decrease any muscle tension you feel in your body.
What are the key steps of the mindfulness meditation practice?
- Come to an understanding of why you're not at peace
- Improve your concentration
- Think about what's distracting you
- Learn how to structure your meditation practice
Author Charles A. Francis joins Dr. Mike to discuss why mindfulness meditation is extremely beneficial for your health and how you can start practicing today.
RadioMD Presents:Healthy Talk | Original Air Date: March 26, 2015
Host: Michael Smith, MD
Living longer and staying healthier it's Healthy Talk with Dr. Michael Smith, MD . Here's your host Dr. Mike.
DR MIKE: Mindfulness meditation made simple. Mindfulness meditation I'm going to be honest with you I'm not even sure what that means but that's why I have the expert on that. His name is Charles A. Francis. He's the co-founder and Director of the Mindfulness Meditation Institute. He has published numerous articles and is the author of a new e-book Mindfulness in the Workplace: How Organizations are Using Mindfulness to Lower Healthcare Costs and Increase Productivity. Charles has a Master's degree in public administration from Syracuse with a focus on healthcare management and policy.
Charles, welcome to Healthy Talk.
CHARLES: Well, good morning. Thank you for having me on.
DR MIKE: So, this idea of mindfulness meditation. I guess maybe I just need to start off with a basic question. What is that?
CHARLES: Yes. Well, that's a big source of confusion. Mindfulness meditation is one from of many different forms of meditation to help us calm our minds so we can focus better and relax and lower our stress levels. The purpose behind the mindfulness meditation is the develop mindfulness. Now, mindfulness in it's simplest form, simply means awareness of what's happening around us; awareness of what's happening within us. Our mind, body, our emotions because we often don't see things as they really are.
We see things from the lens of our pre-conceived ideas/ things that we've heard in the past form our emotional reaction, so with mindfulness meditation we train ourselves to observe objectively. The other thing that it does is it helps to bring us into the present moment because if you think about it all of life is happening in the present. Very often, we are caught up in thinking about what happened in the past or thinking about what's going to happen in the future; how things are going to be better or going to be worse in the future. So, we lose touch with the present moment which is where reality and life is always taking place. So, mindfulness meditation helps bring us back to the present moment.
DR MIKE: So, Charles I think it was Mark Twain who said "I have so many problems in my life. Thank God most of them have never happened." I think that's kind of what you're saying. We're so focused on the past and the future, we forget to live and be mindful of the present. If I am more mindful, if I become more mindful of the reality of my current situation right here, right now, how does that help me health-wise and emotional-wise?
CHARLES: Well, it helps steady our emotions because we don't get into all these unrealistic thoughts of things, like you said, that are never going to happen. So, we don't jump to conclusions as to what's the worst thing that's going to happen. So, we don't react to that. The other thing that it does is by calming our minds, we eliminate a lot of the excess thinking which really agitates our minds and it keeps us from being at peace.
I really think our minds, it's natural state is to be at peace. The problem is, we're always agitating and stimulating it with something. We're stimulating it with a lot of activities, too many commitments, a lot of background noise, so anything that stimulates any of our senses will trigger thinking. With mindfulness meditation we release stress by just helping our mind calm down more naturally by itself.
DR MIKE: You know, Charles it's a rare segment that I don't try to fit in something about my dog. She's really good about living in the moment, being mindful of the moment. She seems like she has not a care in the world, but, of course, that's just a dog. What was your inspiration for all this? I mean what made you want to focus on helping people be more mindful of the reality of right now?
CHARLES: Well. I've been following a spiritual practice for most of my life, so for me it was more natural to want to do that and it was always engrained in me to be a service to other people from a very young age. Now, when I started meditation it took me a long time to understand it and to figure it out because everybody was doing something different.
I just couldn't put my head around it as to what exactly meditation was. Then, I realized that everybody was doing a different form of meditation. And the other thing is, back in the 90's, we really didn't understand the technique very well. At least not many people here in the West. Once I learned about mindfulness meditation--I learned the technique--I figured them out and I realized it was a lot simpler than I thought. Now, what took me years to figure out, I teach in a one and a half hour session through a demonstration and I show people that inner peace is just a few minutes away when you know the techniques and how to apply them.
DR MIKE: So, let's talk about that. In your book you write about 12 steps of the mindfulness meditation practice and I don't expect you to go over all 12 because I want your listeners to go buy your e-book. But, maybe just give us 3 or 4 of some of the key steps in mindfulness meditation practice.
CHARLES: Okay. Well, first of all the reason I developed 12 steps is to make it a lot easier for a beginner to get started. Very often in this fast-paced world, we want things shown to us step by step. Just tell me what to do so I can do it. So, that's what I've done with the 12 steps. Now, the first few steps 1, 2, and 3 they're about basic principles of meditation practice. Like first of all, understanding our suffering, how we suffer, why we're not at peace. We also talk about some of the things that get in the way of our development of mindfulness.
In step 2, we talk about our tools of observation which are concentration and mindfulness itself because, remember, what we're trying to develop is our ability to see the world more objectively without our views being tainted by our emotions or our preconceived ideas which may not be entirely correct because we develop these views from years ago.
In step 3, we look at some of the things that over stimulate our minds like I was talking about the background noise, too many activities, too many commitments, too many unresolved issues from the past.
And Step 4 is an important one because there we learn to structure our meditation sessions or our practice so that it suits our individual lives. Everybody's different and everybody has different commitments, different availabilities of times, different times when we feel...
DR MIKE: So let me ask you, though, Charles. You have these 12 steps and it sounds like it's kind of like the "mindfulness meditation made simple" for people just like me. But I think when people picture somebody meditating, they picture the person in that weird sitting posture and they're able to just really get into that meditation. So, I think a lot of beginners are a little worried that they're not going to be able to do that. Do you break down some of those barriers? Do you have instant tips of how to get through some of those challenges of meditation?
CHARLES: Yes. One of the first things we talk about it not to expect perfection because very often we think that if we don't completely quiet our mind when we start meditating that we're not doing it properly and that's just not so. It takes a mind a few minutes and sometimes over time for it to settle down and be quiet. It's difficult for any of us even with experience to completely shut our mind down.
DR MIKE: Right. Let's do this Charles. Is there a website that my listeners can go to, to check out your articles and books on mindful meditation?
CHARLES: Yes. So, it's MindfulnessMeditationInstitute.org
DR MIKE: That's MindfulnessMeditationInstitute.org. When we come back, we'll continue with Charles Francis and we're going to talk about emotional wounds.
This is Healthy Talk on RadioMD. I'm Dr. Mike. Stay well.