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Mindfulness and Meditation

Overview

Walsh and Shapiro (2006) define meditation as a "family of self-regulation practices that focus on training attention in order to bring mental processes under greater voluntary control and thereby foster general mental well-being and development and /or specific capacities such as calm, clarity and concentration." In meditation, one learns to focus on a specific object in order to deepen ones' awareness of the present moment, in a nonjudgmental way. There are two major branches of meditation practice that go hand in hand.

Concentration meditation involves focusing on a specific object for an extended period of time to train the mind to avoid wandering, and to become steady and rested. Hence, concentration meditation is a tool to achieve peace and stillness which prepare us to hear the voice of the Spirit when He speaks. "Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalms 46:10). That's why meditation has been found to help with ailments such as anxiety, depression, insomnia, chronic pain, and gastrointestinal distress. Typical preferred meditation practices are breathing meditation, listening meditation, mantra meditation, and walking meditation, depending on personality, life style, preference, and personal challenges.

"Mindfulness meditation, in contrast, emphasizes insight through the awareness of the present moment, a process of self-awareness that non- judgmentally accepts everything that arises in the mind and in the body" while focusing on an object, often the breath (Hansen, Nielsen, & Harris, 2008). Hence, mindfulness meditation enhances one's ability to see with clarity the kinds of thoughts and feelings that arise in the mind with some degree of detachment. Through inward observing, meditators increase their opportunity for personal transformation. It is Nephi who cried: "I pray the God of my salvation that he view me with his all-searching eye" (2 Nephi 9:44). Mindfulness meditation is often prescribed in psychotherapy and self -improvement approaches.

Concentration Meditation

Click the (+) next to each topic to learn more.

+ 1) Breathing Meditation-- the corner stone of all meditation practices
+ 2) Listening Meditation
+ 3) Mantra Meditation
+ 4) Walking Meditation

Mindfulness Meditation

"Mindfulness meditation is not about achieving tranquility, rather its aim is to see things as they really are and more clearly" (Salzberg, 1995). When practicing mindfulness meditation you simply pay attention to the object of your meditation in the present moment, non-judgmentally. For example, when drinking a glass of water, bring awareness to the way the water feels in your mouth from the moment it touches your lips to the instant it hits your stomach and then disperses. The same kind of attending applies to internal processes such as thoughts and feelings.

Why use it?

Mindfulness is a form of brain training in that the brain slows down to notice everything about a certain phenomenon or activity. When it comes to your thoughts and feelings, mindfulness helps you perceive more accurately your experience, including your blind spots. That's the reason why mindfulness can lead to personal transformation. Mindfulness is also the gateway to enjoying the daily gifts of life more abundantly, such as the sensations of the warm sun rays on your skin or the song of a bird while taking a walk in the middle of a busy day.

How long does it take?

To train your brain effectively, start with sitting five minutes daily, and move your way up to 20 minutes. You can also practice any time, for a few minutes, as you mindfully eat, walk, do the dishes, listen to someone speak, the goal being to live your life as mindfully as possible, being present in the moment with your experience.

How do I do it?

Start in the same posture as with breathing meditation, sitting or lying down.

Continue with a few moments of listening meditation. Remember to not hold on to any sounds.

Focus on your breathing, in and out, without forcing anything. You may even want to internally say "in" and 'out". That will be your home base for the practice.

As you quietly breathe in and out, thoughts will start to pop up, or feelings or physical sensations will manifest themselves. Bring your full awareness to those, acknowledge their presence and then gently return to home base, breathing in and out. Do not rush the process. Mindfulness is about acknowledging what is on your mind, not judging it and letting it go by returning to the breath.

Traditionally, mindfulness meditation ends with an acknowledgment of the positive energy created (acknowledgment, acceptance, and letting go), and to dedicate it to others.

Disclaimer: Formal mindfulness meditation which focuses on inner experience as described above should not be practiced by individuals who are psychotic or losing/afraid of losing touch with reality or by folks who have experienced trauma which still overwhelms them, unless it is part of their treatment program. Nevertheless, those individuals can still practice daily moments of mindfulness of the external world, especially when distressed.

There are many variations on meditation for different purposes, but you now have the basic instructions and rationale.

Extra tips

  • It is easy to lose track of time while meditating. Some people find it liberating to set a timer with a gentle ring (such as ringtones found on cell phones).
  • Some people find it difficult to meditate immediately before bedtime. If you are sleepy, chances are you will fall asleep; conversely, it may energize your mind, making it difficult to fall asleep.
  • Don't expect immediate results. Meditation works best when it is done for its own sake, without becoming attached to the results.
  • Set aside time for daily practice.

 

Resources

Hansen, K., Nielsen, D., & Harris, M. (2008). Meditation, Christian Values and Psychotherapy. Journal for The Association of Mormon Counselors and Psychotherapists, 32, 41-51.

Lefkowitz, F (2010). Meditation Made Easy. Natural Health Magazine, September/October 2010, pp 68-72.

Salzberg, S (1995). Loving kindness: The revolutionary art of happiness. Boston: Shambhala Publications (Quoted in Natural Health Magazine, September 2010, p. 70).

Walsh, R. & Shapiro, S.L. (2006). The meeting of meditating disciplines and western psychology: A mutually enriching dialogue. American Psychologist, 61 (3), 227-239.

Useful website: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/ -- access articles on meditation written by John Kabat-Zinn and Zindel Segal.

 

Spring 2011 Powerpoint Presentations

Presentation 1 An Invitation to Meditate (upload Powerpoint)

Presentation 2 How can Mindfulness and Meditation Help? (upload Powerpoint)

Presentation 3 Mindfulness in the Service of a Christ-Centered Life (upload Powerpoint)

Handout: Cultivating Christ-Like Qualities through Mindfulness Meditation (upload Handout)

 

Suggested Readings

Full Catastrophe Living -- Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression -- Zindel Segal.

Mindfulness in Plain English - Bhante Henepola Gunaratana

Pubmed - Search engine for medical abstracts articles. Access Jon Kabat-Zinn and Zindel Segal.

The Mindfulness Solution - Ronald D. Siegel

Turning the Mind into an Ally - Sakyong Mipham

When Things Fall Apart -- Pema Chodron

Wherever You Go, There You Are - Jon Kabat- Zinn.

Useful website: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/ -- Access articles on meditation written by John Kabat-Zinn and Zindel Segal.