During the month of February, challenge yourself to participate in MMC’s 28-day meditation program. It’s simple: Commit to meditating each day and connect online to share experiences – pleasant, difficult or otherwise. We will follow the meditation program outlined in Sharon Salzberg’s book, “Real Happiness.” This blog will be your guide, including links to helpful Web sites and guided meditations. Meditation can help with overall wellness, pain, stress, anxiety, sleep and concentration. This is your opportunity to start a new practice to enhance your wellbeing or to continue your practice in the company of your fellow Griffins.

Sign up with the form below and to the right and check back here often.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Welcome to Week 2

Congratulations on arriving at Week 2 of the Real Happiness Meditation Challenge!

During week one, we practiced developing our concentration. In Week 2, we will practice the skill of mindfulness. Salzberg says mindfulness is "giving purposeful, nonjudgmental attention to whatever arises in the present moment. ... thought, emotion, or physical sensation."

Practicing mindfulness, we start to notice that with every experience, there is both the direct, actual experience, and then everything else we think about it. Salzberg calls all that other stuff the "add-ons." And it is often those add-ons to our actual, direct experience that take us out of the moment and cause suffering.

For example, if you're meditating and your foot itches, your direct experience of the itch might include a tickle, a burning, and widening or shrinking of the itchy area and probably, if you watch long enough, a fading of sensation. But if you're meditating and your foot itches, and the very next thing that happens is you start to think, "Oh no. I'm not going to be able to concentrate. This is going to ruin my meditation. Why can't I do this? I can never do anything. I'm never going to be able to find peace." Wow! That's a whole bunch of stuff that is not an itch.

So, in the practice of mindfulness, all those add-ons become just something you're noticing, like the sensation of the breath or the rising and passing of sounds. Those thoughts come and go. Just because you think them, doesn't make them true. It's just brain activity that comes and goes, which you can step out of and observe

You can think of mindfulness as "wise attention" because it is the ability to see the direct experience and also what we add on to our direct experience. It gives us the ability to choose whether to heed these add-ons. It gives us the opportunity to turn off the automatic pilot, and not act based on some conditioned responses we may  not even be conscious of, but instead to see all that is happening and make skillful decisions and choices.

In Week 2, see if you can add a fourth day of meditation practice. Aim for at least one sitting of 20 minutes. Do what you can -- you are collecting a number of tools and options for cultivating a meditation practice.

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