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Mindful : October 2016
There seem to be so many different types of meditation. How do I know if mindfulness is the right one? Why does that question make me think of a newcomer to online dating asking “How will I know if he’s the one?” In that case I would say that a good clue will be how you feel when you are with him, and whether his personal grooming habits are up to your standards. In the case of mindfulness med- itation, it will be what you feel when you are practicing, what you are feeling between peri- ods of practice, what you have typically felt prior to meditat- ing, and your grooming habits probably don’t figure into this particular equation. I’m not suggesting that “ what you feel” equates to how you feel, but literally what you feel. The practice of mindfulness is about asking yourself “what” and not “how” or “why.” It’s about letting go of the story about practicing, about how you should feel a cer tain way (relaxed, enlight- ened, happy) or about trying Meditate or Coffee Date? Here’s the latest installment in our ongoing series of helpful answers to common meditator questions. Steve Hickman is founder and director of the University of California at San Diego Center for Mindfulness. He is a clinical psychologist and associate professor in the Psychiatry and Family & Preventive Medicine departments. By Steve Hickman Illustrations by Gwenda Kaczor to analyze why you are feeling what you are feeling. Just what. Can you bring curiosity to your experience? Do you observe over time that you derive some particular benefit or find yourself more present and equanimous? But all of this requires some patience and a willingness to let go of needing anything to be any different, because this is the paradox of mindfulness practice. It is only when we let go of needing anything to change, that anything might actually change. Try it and see what you think. If you are still left wondering whether mindfulness is for you, then it probably is and you should get your tush back on the cush and sit some more. If you’re looking for some- thing else, like everlasting peace, levitation, more hair on a balding head, or your lost youth, you’ve come to the wrong place. Be sure to mention those things in your Match.com profile, and for heaven’s sake, wash your hair and iron your shirt before you show up for that coffee date! I’m a huge fan of walking medita- tion and highly recommend it as a wonderful contrast to the stillness of sitting, offering a world of oppor tunity to tend to the continuous flow of sensation that unfolds with each mindful step. But sometimes I’m a little wobbly, and when I pause or turn I find just a moment of teetering uncer tainty. I try to see what it’s like to experience that. Rather than drop to the floor in a heap and, in the immortal words of Elmer Fudd, “hold vew www y, vewww y still,” I let my attention drift to the unsteady sensations in my body, the activity of my mind, whatever arises. The same can apply to sitting still. If I sit down on a cushion and find myself jitter y and twitchy, I try to explore that feeling a bit. I might even be amused by my choice of language. Is it really “hard” to sit still? Am I really concerned that I will spring up and star t moonwalking crazily across the room out of sheer agitation? Or is it more like a kind of running com- mentary inside my head telling me that I can’t sit still and I might explode if I don’t act on this thought? Could I possibly thank my brain for that concept, that simple brain secretion, and notice what’s here next? Who knows what I might discover on the other side of the thought that sitting is hard. Maybe it will be whatever is supposed to be next in this damnable practice of meditation. But remember: Nothing happens next. This is it. Ifindithardto sit still. Should I just do walking meditation? 44 mindful October 2016 PRACTICES | am i doing this right?