Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Mindfulness


The Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh, one of the foremost Buddhist teachers alive today, who is regarded by many as a living Buddha, teaches about mindfulness practice.  He speaks of being aware of the breath, being present to Now. He teaches about mindfulness leading to peace: transforming self leads to touching others.

"Being aware of being aware and paying attention to one's intention" forms the basis of mindfulness, Dr Daniel J. Siegel, psychiatrist and author, points out in his talk to Google employees and in his books: Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation and The Mindful Brain.  His research puts a scientific foundation to this 2500-year-old practice.

Many practices can bring one to mindfulness.  Centering prayer, mantra chanting, walking the labyrinth, reciting the Jesus Prayer, meditation--but whatever practice is used, it must be so consistently and must be done for at least thirty minutes a day. Both Dr Siegel and Thay (which means 'teacher' in Vietnamese) point out that the resulting transformation renders great health benefits, such as reduced blood pressure and less stress, but also a change in the person, allowing him or her to be deeply attuned with another's emotions and feelings.

Watch the video and/or get ahold of one or both of Dr Siegel's books for a full explanation of how mindfulness changes self and others (his work on mindfulness and significant decrease in bullying is astounding). You will also learn that the brain changes physically as the result of such a longstanding practice, leading to whole-brain awareness and thinking. While contemplatives have been aware of this for millenia, the science now explains and supports it fully.

We have work to do! Such transformation is not simply for mystics locked away in a cave or at the top of a mountain, though it's for them too, but for each of us. According to Jesus, the Reign of God is within us, so let's get busy realizing it, truly making for peace.

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