Mindfulness and Meditation 101
Unitarian Universalist Church of Great Lynn
Rev. Chris Scheller
There are many different types of meditation techniques and practices. I teach mindfulness meditation. Informally, you can practice mindfulness meditation by simply paying attention to whatever you’re doing with non-judgmental attention. Formally, mindfulness meditation is typically practiced by paying attention to the breath, or as an “open awareness” of the five senses without an anchor at all. I offer a guided body scan practice at the start of each session as well, in order to help you connect and check-in with your body, and a loving-kindness practice at the close of each session in order to help adjust the quality and intentionality of your awareness.
Mindfulness meditation is about getting back to that basic, fundamental level that we just “are”. It is a shift of attention from doing and achieving to just being. This is important to keep in mind if you find yourself trying to do “a good job” at meditation.
The work of meditation is more in “undoing” than in doing. If you find yourself thinking during meditation, “Oh, I’m not very good at clearing my mind, I need to get better at this,” or “I didn’t do a good job with this,” or “my thoughts were racing.” Just work on accepting and not judging yourself or your thoughts. Let the mind unravel in its own time.
Meditation is a way to let go of all the busyness of our thoughts and activities and reconnect with ourselves – with our mind, body, and heart – so that we can remember the joy and miracle of simply being alive.
A large body of scientific evidence over the last few decades documents our growing understanding of the many ways mindfulness meditation is beneficial. Mindfulness has been shown to lower blood pressure, help the body heal faster, help with chronic pain, support anxiety and depression treatment, increase executive functioning and effectiveness under stress, improve self-esteem and self-compassion, and increase the brain mass in areas in charge of decision-making, emotional flexibility, empathy, and happiness!
It has been shown to literally change the structure of the brain for the better by increasing volume of the brain’s gray matter in areas related to emotional regulation, positive emotion, and self-control. It improves cognitive performance with especially large effect sizes related to larger amounts of practice time. It increases productivity, focus, attention, memory, and the ability to be creative and think outside the box.
The qualities I focus on cultivating in my teaching include:
Abiding in the present moment both alert and relaxed, and not getting lost in thoughts.
Bringing lovingkindness and acceptance to all our own thoughts and feelings, as well as anything we experience through the five senses.
Not being critical of ourselves, our thoughts, or our feelings.
Practicing nonreactivity to thoughts and feelings: Learning to respond from a place of centeredness, connectedness, intelligence, and compassion rather than reactivity.
In a nutshell, the more we let go of patterns of thinking and feeling where we are spinning around and around with worry, anger, or sadness, and the more we cultivate lovingkindness, the more we are able to feel peaceful and calm. When the mind is settled and clear, we feel more connected and happy, and part of a greater whole. Peace and happiness are something we can find as part of our fundamental nature by relaxing into it – and something we lose and find again through unwinding, rather than through achievements.
Lastly, learning meditation is a way to get to know yourself better. I teach it as a regenerative and relaxing practice to start, but sometimes deep feelings come up, because as we give ourselves loving-attention, sometimes the body takes that as an opportunity to release. If this becomes overwhelming, please reach out for support. I bring over 15 years of experience teaching meditation and a background in mindfulness psychology and world religions to this offering. For more information, take a look at our UUCGL webpage on programs for adults.
Happy practicing and hope to see you soon!
Rev. Chris Scheller
Minister of Community Life and Learning
Unitarian Universalist Church of Greater Lynn
“We are very good at preparing to live, but not very good at living. We know how to sacrifice ten years for a diploma and we are willing to work very hard to get a job, a car, a house, and so on. But we have difficulty remembering that we are alive in the present moment, the only moment there is for us to be alive.”
—Thich Nhat Hanh