Tonight’s post is our first Meditation Q & A:
Marty wrote, telling us about an uncomfortable experience at a Zen Center where it doesn’t seem like he felt heard. He also asked about introducing mindfulness to someone who is struggling with PTSD. I thought this was a great post because mindfulness is being used quite often for people living with chronic illness such as PTSD, migraines, stress-related illnesses, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease, etc.
Here is my answer to his question:
First off, I am so sorry that you had the experience that you did at the Zen Center. I tried to sit with one when I lived out west for a short time and did not find that it was a good fit for me.
When I moved to the Midwest, I found a lovely sangha in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh and they were incredibly welcoming. I think each center/group/sangha will have a different feel and you just have to find the right one.
I think that your post raises some interesting ideas for me… there is a difference, at least for me, between mindfulness as way of life or spiritual practice and the use of mindfulness as a tool for relaxation, helping with mental health issues, etc.
Some would I am sure beg to differ with me. But as teachers like Jon Kabat-Zinn have shown, you don’t have to have Buddhism in your mindfulness, only mindfulness.
That being said, to answer your question about introducing mindfulness to someone who hasn’t practiced. . . my comment is this, share resources with them. Share your experience and how it has helped you. After that, it’s up to that person. I don’t think everyone has to live a Zen life to practice mindfulness.
If that was the case, there would be a lot of Cognitive Behavioral therapists that would not have practices because they are teaching the technique of mindfulness and not the spiritual practice. . . some people might not practice insight meditation but could benefit from something like Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction programs (see UMASS).
Our good friends at Wikipedia mention this: “Mindfulness practice, inherited from the Buddhist tradition, is increasingly being employed in Western psychology to alleviate a variety of mental and physical conditions, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, and in the prevention of relapse in depression and drug addiction”. Notice that they say inherited from rather than the actual practice. . .
There are a lot of books out there on using mindfulness solely for relaxation or helping with things like depression, OCD, anxiety, etc. Even Jon Kabat-Zinn helped to co-author a book called The Mindful Way through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness with Mark Williams, John Teasdale, and Zindel Segal.
I guess my suggestion to you would be to share resources like this with the person whom you have in mind. If they are interested, they will pursue it and know that you are a resource person for them. We can’t make a person find a spiritual way of life.
Look at AA, they have suggested for decades that people seek a higher power but they don’t define what that is and I think if they had insisted on what that might be, the program would have been as successful.
Also, my suggestion would be that this is a good time to practice letting go of outcomes. Share with your friend and wish the situation well, maybe sending some lovingkindness into the situation. Let this person find his/her way as it will most likely mean more. Be patient and remember that we can’t walk another’s path for them.
I hope that helps Marty. I appreciate your openness and your desire to help others as you share wonderful information about PTSD and how to live with the diagnosis.
Take gentle care,
- Mindful Eating Goes “Mainstream” (namasteconsultinginc.com)
- How should you start if you want to try mindfulness meditation? (beyondmeds.com)
- Jon Kabat-Zinn to Speak in Berkeley Feb. 17 to Benefit Our Colleagues Mindful Schools (ucsdcfm.wordpress.com)
- Even 5 Minutes of Meditation Can Change the Way You Work (intentionalworkplace.com)
- Jon Kabat-Zinn on Mindfulness (mindfulplaying.wordpress.com)
- Week 3: Still Sitting (imperfecthappiness.wordpress.com)