1. Kitchen Sink Meditation

    “The act of non doing is the most important thing you can do in your life. My parents were always like: You’re so lazy. Turns out, I’m a Buddhist” -Daniel Tosh


    On my quest to eliminate stress from my life, I started to learn about mindfulness and meditation during my sophomore year of college. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, and I fell asleep a lot. I learned later that I was trying to force relaxation while pretending to ignore distraction, which to no surprise was very counter-intuitive. Fortunately, I discovered Jon Kabat-Zinn and Thich Nhat Hanh and I was on my way to becoming an Enlightened Bastard.

    There are two components to everyday meditation and those are Breathing & Mindfulness.

    As discussed in Anger, breathing is often taken for granted because most people do it through their chest, ignoring the abdomen, which is incorrect. You can’t fill the top half of a pint of beer before the bottom, right? Imagine your abdomen and chest as the pint glass, and fill ‘er up. Breathing should be done deeply in one of two ways:

    • Imaginatively fill the lower and middle abdomen with air first, then the chest cavity.
       
    • Intently focus on the abdominal muscles. Contract when inhaling and expand when exhaling.

    The same wise uncle from the last post informed me that this second technique actually “centers” an individual by the movement of subtle energies. By first focusing on the pelvic floor with your inhales and exhales, then allowing your focus to steadily rise, you awaken the life force energy within, causing it to also rise. This energy is sometimes referred to as the kundalini. Having a guru in the family is legit, isn’t it?

    Once you become savvy at breathing, the next step is to become more mindful. Have you ever walked downstairs the morning after a fuzzy night out at the bar, and ask yourself “where the hell did all of this come from?” Yeah, me too. Believe it or not, that simple question is a small part of enlightenment and you’re already doing it hungover. Thoughtful observation and recognition are very much a part of being mindful in whatever it is that you are doing (Warning: I’m about to get weird and philosophical again).

    For example, I’m drinking a beer as I write this post. How did this beer come to be? There was a field where wheat and barley grew, someone harvested, another processed, some genius brewed the ingredients, logistics get involved, and I enjoy the delicious result. This is a lot to process, and being that I don’t live in the mountains of Tibet, I don’t have time to be this analytical 24 hours a day. However, I apply this tactic as often as I can because it is a core component of meditation.
     
    More important than considering the nature of your adult beverage, is to be intimately involved in the experience of whatever it is that you are doing at any given moment. The Hanh analogy always comes back to washing the dishes. If I ever have to wash the dishes by hand (thankfully that’s not often), I rush to get them done, only thinking about what is next. Being mindful is to wash the dishes and live in that very moment. Breathe deeply while noticing the running water, the weight of the object, the texture of the sponge and the sensation that all of these things provide independently of each other. To be mindful while doing something mundane is uncomfortable at first, but embrace that discomfort and carry on.
     
    You are now meditating at the kitchen sink.

    I blur the line between “meditation” and “mindfulness” because mindfulness, in essence, is a meditative state. I aim to be mindful most of the time and recognize all sensory inputs even if they are distracting. This kind of “compartmentalization”, if you will, is perfect for the full body scan. In this guided meditation technique, you lie on your back and focus on one body part at a time while recognizing the distractions of the floor, foreign sounds, and your wandering mind. Kabat-Zinn acknowledges that you cannot control the random thoughts that come and go, particularly emotional ones. It is your duty then, to acknowledge their existence and continue on with your concentrated and mindful state once you can move past them.

     
    Being mindful then, is essentially a heightened level of awareness comprised of what Hanh calls the Five Aggregates, or “Dharmas”:

    • Bodily & Physical Forms
    • Feelings
    • Perceptions
    • Mental Functioning
    • Consciousness

    The fifth aggregate, Consciousness, is the sum of the other four categories and is the basis for their existence. The interdependence of these Dharmas is what makes any one thing real in nature. Let’s go back to my beer, which is now getting warm:

    •  I pick up the 1/3rd full glass of goodness, knowing there is a history to the content and container to make it exist. 
    •  If you haven’t picked up that what is in this glass makes me feel happy, then you’re not paying attention. 
    •  I recognize my own and other people’s perceptions about the beer, and that it’s 2pm (it’s officially patio season, don’t judge). 
    •  I take in the sensory inputs from all sources, including the distraction of the wasted Swedish guy behind me yelling: “I am not an ass-hole… I am an ice-hole”.   

    This is being quite mindful while trying to write; However, the same principles apply to meditation. To mediate is to relax your mind in a relatively controlled environment and similarly “break down” whatever may come to your conscious. The examples that I gave are an intense version of an “everyday kind of mindfulness”, which seems more practical to most than sitting cross-legged under an almond tree. However, if you want to get started on the controlled environment stuff, use meditative aids such as relaxing music, sound-scapes, or guided meditation audio.

    Why be mindful or meditate in your quarter life? Because it can change your relationship with the world around you, and the relationship you have with yourself. Practicing everyday mindfulness has radically changed how I interact with people. If the beer that I’m drinking has a complex timeline, consider the history of a human being. You become much more apt to consider a person’s circumstance or history before judging them, which in turn enables you to respond to people thoughtfully. For once having a short fuse, I graduated into The Cooler by way of mindfulness.

    Also, researchers report: those who meditated for 30 minutes a day over eight weeks had measurable changes in gray-matter density in areas of the brain associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress. Sounds to me like a sure-fire way to get rid of those damn Columbus, Ohio winter blues that we Midwesterners know all too well. Moreover, the skill of being able to compartmentalize your thoughts and distractions is incredibly useful for a heightened level of concentration, particularly when trying to write a blog near drunken Swedes.


    Recommended Resources:

    Hanh: The Miracle of Mindfulness

    Kabat-Zinn: Any of his work

    Bhante Henepola Gunaratana: Mindfulness in Plain English

    Meditation: Body Scan

    3 years ago  /  20 notes

    1. notunlikethecomet reblogged this from quarterlifeoverhaul
    2. americanbornterror said: Mouth breathing is sexy. No seriously, sick post. Me gusta.
    3. quarterlifeoverhaul posted this