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I have been practicing mindfulness meditation for the last 14 months - 30 minutes, everyday and I have to say that it has been virtually the most important skill that I have picked up. Because it's essentailly that - a skill. I was very stressed and the anxiety started to affect virtually every aspect of my life. My family wanted me to seek professional help (take pills), but I decided to try to take care of it myself so I started reading books... a lot of books about the brain, how it works, etc. and this is how I was introduced to mindfulness. Now, 14 months later the effects are so profound that I have hard time imagining what my mind looked like before. The biggest change I have noticed is the ability to not act on thoughts and easily let them go by accepting them. Things that used to trigger me before are just thoughts now: the thought comes, I notice it and it passes. The best word that comes to mind when trying to describe the feeling is ... grounded. I feel grounded, calm.

I know it sounds cliche, but now I realize that it's true that the moment you stop fighing your thoughts and urges, they lose their power. I remember reading things again and aain and could not wrap my head about this concept before.

- Does the anxiety go away? No, but my relationship with the anxiety and stress changed.

IMHO Self-reflection and emotional intelligence are the most important skills one can develop. Because if you develop them, you stop being in your own way and sabotaging yourself and it leads to generally happier life.

This is what I did i nthe last 14 months: - Lay down, close my eyes and observe the sensetion of breathing in my belly. - In the beginning my mind was immediately distracted with thoughts. It took me sometimes a few minutes until I was able to realize that I have been distracted all along. Then I had to force myself to ignore the distrating thought and pay attention to my breathing. It was really hard in the beginning and my sessions lasted usually 15 minutes max. - But as I got better it became easier...now I have no problems to let go of a thought ... even a very emotiaonally charged one. It's like I have a switch in my head.

I have recommended mindfulness to all my friends and relatives and virtually none of them have made more than a few sessions. That makes me sad, because I can see what effects it can have, but there's nothing more than recommending that I can do - it's really a personal commitment.

Your comment is great because I understand it. I've read up on meditation a little here, a little there. It was difficult for me to understand at first. What is meditation? What is the point? What happens when I do it right? When can I tell I'm doing it right? I just completely didn't understand it, and I couldn't find an explanation in any of the books that I read. I was making it out to be very complex. Then I actually tried it. I didn't get it, so I gave up. After my 4th or 5th attempt, I concentrated on my breath and that was it. I grasped a better understanding that time of what all the fuss is about. I was a little better at being in the "now" that time, and I even felt different for a short time afterwards, although I couldn't describe it in words if I wanted... Then I haven't done it again since.

A question for you when it comes to anxiety... Do you feel that you control the anxiety much better now? For example, I've developed anxiety when I'm at heights working to the point that sometimes I lock up, and feel like I'm about to start having a panic attack. Do you feel like you can intercept those emotions and react physically in a calm manner?

Well, I wouldn't say that I can control it better. These reactions are way too primitive to be consciously controlled. I simply do not get triggered by the same situations any more ... maybe the mind becomes more resilient and thus the "grounded" and "calm" feelings. There are some pretty good explanations about how mindfulness actually works and how it causes the amygdala (the brain region responsible for emotional reactions) to literally shrink and be less reactive (google it, really interesting stuff). Imagine it this way - you are in a situation, which normally causes you severe anxiety. You start feeling the unpleasant physical sensations, the obsessive thoughts come aaaand ... they simply pass. Like 2 minutes later you don't even remember that you were having them. This is what started to happen to me after 6-7 months of practice. Another thing that I have noticed: The need to mentally rehearse situations, which cause me anxiety, has disappeared. I used to waste a lot of time imagining what I would say, what would happen, etc. but the urge to do it is not there any more.

It is like interrupting a step in a chain reaction. The sooner you can identify and acknowledge one of the steps the sooner you halt or slow the reaction. So you may not be able to stop the initial emotion or thought, but by acknowledging it you may help stop the reaction to that emotion.

Thanks for responding. That makes sense. Very interesting stuff!

I've been meditating on and off for the past 30 years.

For people trying out, there's no need to do it everyday. Don't be stressed out with missing out on your meditation schedule.

Meditate when you can. It's not a race. There is no sculpted body to show off after rigorous workout regime at the gym. It's just for yourself.

I'd argue, that meditation works best when treated like learning to play an instrument or doing sports. Regular practice is where the most benefit can be reaped. Doesn't have to be every single day, but it should be regular. Don't do it once a blue moon and expect any tangible benefits.

> Then I had to force myself to ignore the distrating thought and pay attention to my breathing. It was really hard in the beginning and my sessions lasted usually 15 minutes max.

One thing I recommend is persevering through the "difficult" meditations. It's about being alert and aware, not about being calm and relaxed. Recognize the "distracting" thoughts and let them go each time they arise, don't continue the conversation with those thoughts. Go back to your breathing and just sitting there. Some days those distracting thoughts come more than others, even after 10 years of meditating.

When I met Thich Nhat Hanh in 2005 he said these difficult meditations can be the most rewarding.

Thanks for the comment. Are there any books or resources about mindfulness that you found particularly helpful?

Check out Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind for a good book on practicing meditation. It's not religious, but basically a transcript of a Zen Master's talks on zen and the practice of meditation to his group of students. It's what I recommend to people who want to 'get' meditation.


Not specifically related to meditation, but The Tao of Pooh is still the best book I know of that deals with the concepts behind this stuff. I re-read these books whenever I lose my way, which happens more often than I'd like to admit ;)

I'm currently reading The Instinct to Heal by David Servan-Schreiber [0]. It's not specifically about mindfulness, but so far I found it everything to be what I was looking for when I was looking for writings on these topics. On the internet I've seen a lot of essays pass by about mindfulness, but they're all a bit alike. This book is interesting to me because it gives info about methods I didn't know about, and provides scientific data and references to base its claims. [0] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/153401.The_Instinct_to_H...

Not about mindfulness, but I highly recommend this book: http://www.amazon.com/Brain-That-Changes-Itself-Frontiers/dp...

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