While Mindfulness can include some aspects of guided relaxation, it also includes other adaptive skills. Some of these include: deepening insight into habits of thought and action, distress tolerance, releasing unhelpful attachment and aversion, present-moment awareness, skillful action, and healing emotional perspectives.
Hypnosis usually involves a client willingly entering a unique psychological state of heightened suggestibility. Once this state is induced, the therapist can more easily collaborate with the client in evoking specific changes in behavior. Mindfulness, on the other hand, is a self-directed technique, cultivating an awareness that is receptive to various states of mind, thus maintaining sense of balance amidst the full range of our inner experience.
I have heard that meditation can be good for me but I am already overwhelmed with so many other things. Is this just one more thing for my “to do” list?
Developing a Mindfulness Practice, including periods of meditation, can be a great gift, especially when one is overwhelmed. Through the practice of mindfulness we begin to notice our habits of thought and behavior. We give ourselves a chance to notice the true sources of our feeling of being overwhelmed. Once we become aware, we can make more conscious choices. This is a wonderful gift we can give ourselves and our loved ones.
I have been told by my doctor to learn to relax. Would your class help me learn to relax? How long would it take to learn this?
Yes. Learning deep relaxation is a vital aspect of mindfulness training. When we are truly relaxed and awake, we notice our state of being. We notice where in our body we might be carrying tension or when we might be holding our breath. Once we notice these things, we can learn to release them and enjoy total relaxation.
Each student comes to mindfulness in various stages of ripeness. The time it takes to learn to relax is usually not very long. It’s regular practice that makes the difference.
Personal practice time does not have to last for hours and hours. Even a quick ten minutes is good, and half an hour is excellent. The important thing is that there is a period in every day in which we practice waking up to the fact that we are living, breathing beings capable of developing the qualities of enlightenment.
Meditation practice is the basis of our sanity, of our happiness. It is the basis of sound and fruitful relationships with our friends and family, who themselves will benefit from our personal practice time. Without a personal practice, our life is a series of mundane and often disorienting moments in which we are skimming the surface of our mind, living on the surface of our perceptions. We are absorbed in how things appear. Problems, issues, and relationships appear to be real, solid, and immovable. Everything appears to be stuck.
As a result of what we experience in deep meditation, we begin to experience the world in a different way. It’s not that our compassion and wisdom manifest dramatically. They simply appear as the most natural way to behave and feel. When the sun warms our face on a cold day, it feels natural.
Excerpt from "The Importance of Personal Practice" by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche
Meditation isn't really about getting rid of thoughts, it's about changing the pattern of grasping on to things, which in our everyday experience is our thoughts. The thoughts are fine if they are seen as transparent, but we get so caught up judging thoughts as right or wrong, for and against, yes and no, needing it to be this way and not that way. And even that might be okay except that is accompanied by strong, strong emotions. So we just start ballooning out more and more. With this grasping onto thoughts we just get more caught, more and more hooked. All of us. Every single one of us.
It's as if you had vast, unlimited space—complete openness, total freedom, complete liberation—and the habit of the human race is to always, out of fear, grasp onto little parts of it. And that is called ego and ego is grasping on to the content of our thoughts.
That is also the root of suffering, because there is something in narrowing it down which inherently causes us a lot of pain because it is then that we are always in a relationship of wanting or not wanting. We are always in a struggle with other people, with situations, even with our own being. That's what we call stress.
by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche
Simply saying, "Oh, if I focus my attention on my breathing I'll feel more relaxed," is not enough. If meditation were about stress relief, we could forgo having to understand our own minds and simply get a good massage. Instead, it's crucial to consider the implications of guiding our mind away from the pursuit of every little thought that pops into our head.
This is what we do in meditation practice: gently guide ourselves toward observing thoughts and emotions from an ever-larger perspective. We use the natural tendency we refer to as meditation to return us again and again to a more open view of our experience, rather than our usual habit to return again and again to a smaller view.
When we meditate, we acknowledge that we're thinking but try not to follow the thoughts. Instead we bring our attention back to the sensation of the breath going in and out. We recognize we are caught in a thought or fantasy, and then we bring the attention back to the breath. That's what meditation is--returning our attention to the object.
Once we can squarely recognize the condition we're all in, it's natural to say, "Well, I don't want to drift at the whim of conditions coming together just right. I want to be able to feel content even when things don't go exactly my way." Stabilizing and strengthening the mind through a regular meditation practice can help accomplish this.
Excerpt from "Take the Big View" by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche