Mindfulness meditation is everywhere in the news these days because scientists are showing how it changes our brains, making us smarter, happier, calmer and healthier. Meditation helps us relate better to the inevitable difficulties in life. Meditation is the opposite of multi-tasking. It teaches us to see clearly where before there was confusion, to get a little closer to reality and less mired in the stories we make up about nearly everything.
Meditation is an art best learned from experienced teachers and practiced with others who are motivated to befriend their own mind and wake up fully to the miracle that life truly is. People from all walks of life and all spiritual traditions practice mindfulness meditation.
What can you expect from a meditation class? First, a lot of support. The teacher has been there and knows how challenging it is. She or he will show you how to sit so you can be reasonably comfortable. You can sit on a bench or chair if need be, or even stand up.
The teacher will guide you in developing awareness. Meditation does not require stopping all thought; it is said that the mind thinks, just as the ears hear and the eyes see. But mindfulness allows you to be aware of your mental experience so you can direct it in a positive way. Thus it is said that mindfulness guards the mind.
A meditation class might focus on breath, emotions, the body, or some other aspect of our experience. Sometimes the focus is on cultivating positive emotions such as love, compassion, joyfulness, and equanimity.
No one ever said that meditation is easy, although at times it can be relaxing and even blissful. The human mind has many nicknames: traditionally, it is referred to as a wild horse or a monkey, and a more contemporary take on this is: a neighborhood where one should not go alone after dark (said rather tongue-in-cheek, and yet there is truth to this).
If you look at your own mind and immediately see how loud or busy or obsessive it is, you are just a normal human being. If there is a pop song stuck in your head and you can’t get it out, again, you are just a normal human being. Stick with the practice, and it will not only get easier (physically as well as mentally), but it will become more interesting. As you strengthen your “mindfulness muscles”, you will find it is easier to relax and let go, and you will begin to see how the mind works at very subtle levels. And what could possibly be more interesting than your own mind?
We are very fortunate to have teachers from BodhiHeart Sangha teaching meditation in Shoreline at Richmond Beach Yoga. The next quarterly Mindfulness Meditation Mini-Retreat is on January 31st from 2 to 5 p.m. with Venerable Dhammadinna, and a 5-week course will take place Monday evenings in March from 6:30 to 7:45 p.m. with Carol Meckling, MA. We also have a group practice session on Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. This is open to all, including beginners, and it is included in your RBY membership (6 months, annual, and autopay).
Venerable Dhammadinna took robes in 1983 as a Buddhist monastic after earning a science degree at U. Mass. She moved to Asia thereafter and remained for 21 years, studying with U Pandita and Ajahn Buddhadasa, among others, walking daily alms rounds and meditating in the forests and temples of Burma and Thailand. In 2000 she was sent by her Burmese teacher to Dharmsala to study with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Over the past two decades Ven. Dhammadinna has taught meditation in Thailand as well as in England, India, and the United States. Venerable Dhammadinna now makes her home on Capitol Hill in Seattle and has been resident teacher at BodhiHeart Sangha since 2006.
Carol Meckling, MA is a longtime Shoreline resident. She is a senior student at BodhiHeart Sangha, a Buddhist practice community in the tradition of the Dalai Lama, as well as a psychotherapist and professional artist. She has led meditation groups in prison settings and has twenty years of experience in the mental health field. Carol strives to bring mindfulness and Dharma to her everyday life and to her painting.