We have been meeting since 1998 for meditation and discussion in the Manoa area of Honolulu, Hawai’i. We meet weekly, on Thursdays, from 6 to 7:30 PM.
Our sessions begin with gentle stretching 10 minutes followed by quiet sitting (guided) meditation for about 20 minutes, followed by a short talk and time for Q and A. These sessions are suitable for beginners as well as for experienced meditators.
I teach in a completely secular manner, but draw from time to time from the classical Buddhist tradition, in which I was trained as a monk in Sri Lanka in the early 1980s.
If you have a meditation cushion or a yoga mat, it would be wonderful if you could bring it. We also have some chairs available.
We meet at our home at 3241 Alani Drive, Honolulu, Hawai’i, 96822. You can just type in our address into Google Maps. My cell is (808) 393-6342.
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In the past 15 years or so, science has come to more clearly understand the complex chemistry that occurs in our brains. Science has found that mindfulness meditation can benefit you psychologically, emotionally, and physically.
So what specifically can mindfulness meditation do for you?
It has been established through many scientific studies that mindfulness meditation can
- improves focus. Focus is a skill that you can learn just like any other skill, like learning to play an instrument. The type of focus you learn with mindfulness meditation carries over into you entire life, in whatever task you take on.
- improves health. Meditation has serious health benefits but that doesn’t mean you have to “get serious” about it for it to be effective.
- reduces stress. Mindfulness meditation has been proven to trigger the parasympathetic response, also known as the relaxation response, thereby lowering cortisol levels, which is the main culprit in the stress response.
- enhances empathy. Mindfulness can help you connect with other people, and this way, can greatly benefit your experience of relationship.
- helps you be less reactive. Mindfulness helps you reduce the time it takes you to recover from upsetting events. This single quality is seen as the key to emotional resilience. It helps you be less of a pain in the rear to other people as you don’t react to the usual triggers.
- increases mental flexibility. Mindfulness allows you to look at the world in new way, and respond to challenging and stressful situations more skillfully.
- boosts memory. Several military studies have found that mindfulness increases what is called “working memory” – which can be of great help all around.
- gives you a faster bigger and better brain. Yes, size does matter, especially of grey matter! Mindfulness meditation has been shown to increase gray matter density over time, and even stall and reverse age related neurodegeneration.
And we are only getting started here, as mindfulness meditation is phenomenal for exploring what for lack of a better word, one could call spirituality.
OK, now we have to explain something here.
The down side to all of this for many people could be with that last item above – spirituality.
One could say that our sessions are great for folks who may have some inclination toward the spiritual side of things without being at all religious.
One could even say accurately that our mindfulness meditation get togethers are thoroughly secular and perfect for skeptical folks who don’t feel any particular need for spirituality in their lives, but just want to go somewhere to learn this stuff without being preached to.
How do I begin?
If you cannot attend one of our free, weekly classes in Manoa, no problem. Here are some simple instructions to get you started.
Here’s a simple mindfulness meditation instruction for when you can set aside a period of quiet time:
Sit comfortably in a place that you are not likely to be disturbed.
Set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes if you are just getting started.
Choose a physical sensation upon which to focus your awareness. Many choose to focus on the movement of breathing as your stomach rises and falls; your chest moves up and down; or the breath moves in and out of your nostrils.
Relax and move your attention away from what you’re thinking to the sensation of breathing. The aim is not to change the way you breathe but to notice what your breathing feels like. Notice what happens in your mind and body when you move your attention to the sensation of your breathing and nothing else.
Most likely you will soon notice that you’re thinking of something else. When that happens, don’t try to get rid of your thoughts or get mad at yourself for thinking while you’re meditating.
Thoughts come and go and when they come simply notice them and move your attention back to the sensation of breathing.
Getting distracted is a natural part of meditation, especially at the beginning. Your mind will wander, guaranteed. Sometimes a thought or memory will come up and you’ll naturally think about it, and then that will lead you to another thought or memory, and that will lead you to another one, and so on.
This is not a problem.
You just simply and gently your attention to your breath.
The practice of returning your attention to your breath from a thought is really the essential skill of meditation!
You are working on returning to the present moment, on being aware in a non-judgmental way of what is happenings right here and right now.
Congratulations, you just had a mindful moment!
Don’t take it too seriously and keep your sense of humor.
Try not to judge yourself as a success or failure at mindfulness. In mindfulness practice there simply no such thing as success or failure, and you just can’t do this wrong.
If all this was a bit too long, here is a is a one-moment meditation technique!
Taking Mindfulness into Your Daily Life
This practice really starts to take off ripen when you find yourself spontaneously practicing mindfulness as you go about your daily life, not in any forced way, for instance:
While waiting for a red light to turn green;
While waiting in line at the bank, or in a grocery store
While washing dishes (my personal favorite!)
While on the computer, emailing, or texting on your phone; or,
While waiting ‘on hold’ during a phone call.
You will better be able to have your mindfulness practice help you better manage life’s ups and downs by making an effort to keep learning off the cushion as well as on the cushion.
Take some time during the workday to get in touch with your sensory experience. Once a day do something with the attention to be fully there for it — whether it’s opening a door, putting on your socks, or savoring a delicious bowl of noodles.
I have a pretty good feeling you will be pleasantly surprised by the gradual impact of this simple practice.
Some folks find it helpful to keep a simple journal to write about their experiences, but you can try that only if it is something you think you might like to do.
It is in no way essential that you do this.
Come to the weekly group for inspiration.
And you can always contact me through this contact form on this blog if you get stuck or want some help.