By Tena Gardiner, Department of Social Work
Mindful meditation might sound like a foreign concept to many people, but it's actually a much more common and simple practice than you might realize. In fact, there are two different forms of mindful meditation: informal and formal.
Informal mindfulness can be a really helpful way to figure out if this is something you will enjoy and works for you because it allows you to integrate mindfulness skills into your everyday life.
- Directing attention to and focusing on your breathing to calm yourself right before making a difficult phone call
- Listening to ambient sounds in the environment while walking or driving
- Mentally labeling feelings or thoughts during an intense or stressful conversation
- Focusing on the effect that eating an orange has on all five of your senses
Formal mindfulness practice takes the informal practice a step further and refers to the actual practice of mindfulness meditation.
It includes the following:
- Sustained, disciplined introspection
- Allowing one to learn how the mind works
- Allowing one to observe the mind's contents
- Development through sitting and walking meditations, yoga and tai chi
Micki Fine, who teaches meditation at MD Anderson addressed the benefits of mindfulness last year at TEDEX Houston.
Six common misconceptions about mindful meditation
After learning about these two forms of mindfulness, you still might be a little unsure if this is something you want to try out. Hopefully discussing some of the following misconceptions can further ease your concerns.
- Mindful meditation is just a relaxation technique.
While relaxation is a key component of meditation, it should not be the goal.
- Mindful meditation means going into a trance.
This can be true for certain types of meditation but not mindful meditation. Rather than becoming less aware you're becoming more aware of your body, emotions and passing thoughts.
- The purpose of meditation is to become psychic.
No. The purpose of meditation it to develop self-awareness.
- Meditation is running away from reality.
Actually, meditation is running straight into reality. It's learning to look at yourself exactly as you are, to see what's there and fully accept it.
- Meditation is selfish.
It certainly looks that way. Meditation increases awareness and can reduce one's emotional reactivity. How you think, talk and act impacts others. If you're not aware of yourself, how can you be in touch with another person?
- A couple of weeks of meditation and all my problems will go away.
Meditation isn't a quick cure-all. Ideally, it's best not to look for the changes since the changes are usually subtle. So subtle, in fact, you may not notice them.
Give it a try
Are you interested in learning more about mindful meditation?
Join us at our monthly support group, Body, Mind and Spirit Support Group. This group is held at the Integrative Medicine Center, every second Wednesday of the month, from noon to 1:00 p.m. A light lunch will be provided to attendees by the Volunteer Endowment for Patient Services.
For more information contact Social Work counselors Toni Franciosi at 713-792-7575 or Tena Gardiner at 713-792-7147.