Koru: the mindfulness practice

Yesterday I finished a four-session workshop on mindfulness meditation organized by Duke Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). The workshop is the introductory part of the Koru mindfulness curriculum developed for college students and psychological services professionals. I have learnt a lot from this experience and want to share a few things in this post.

The class covered a wide range of meditation practices: belly breathing, dynamic breathing, walking meditation, gatha, visual imagery, body scan, eating meditation, labeling thoughts, and labeling feelings. We practiced these techniques in class and discussed about what occurred in our minds during the meditation.

I have learnt two lessons from practicing these techniques.

First, you have to make meditation a routine in your life, no matter how little time you devote to it or in what way you practice it. I allocated at least 10 minutes each morning (usually right after waking up and drinking a glass of water) for meditation, and have felt my resistance against it has slowly turned into acceptance and even a welcoming attitude.

Second, you need to figure out what works the best for you. During the group discussions, I noticed vast differences in the effectiveness of each practice across my group mates. Since the ultimate goal of meditation is to find peace and mindfulness in YOUR life, it is important that you choose whatever method that suits YOU the best.

Another great resource for meditation beginners is the book Whenever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn. It contains short sections summarizing the essence of the meditation and outlining common techniques for practice. The text is wonderfully written, rich and thought-provoking. Here is one of my favorite quotes:

… our feet find their own way. Watching my own, I am amazed at how many different places and ways I might put my foot down with each step, and how out of this unfolding momentary potential, the foot ultimately commits to one way, executes with full weight on it (or less if it is a hazardous situation), and then lets go as the next foot makes its choice and I move forward,  All this occurs virtually without thinking, except at the occasional tricky spots where thought and experience do come into play … … But this is the exception, not the rule. Ordinarily we are not looking at our feet and thinking about each step. We are looking out, ahead on the trail, and our brain, taking it all in, makes split-second decisions for us that put the foot down in a way that conforms to the needs of the terrain underfoot in that moment.

And here is another one:

By itself, meditation does not confer immunity from this pattern of looking elsewhere for answers and solutions to one’s problems. Sometimes people chronically go from one technique to another, or from teacher to teacher, or tradition to tradition, looking for that special something, that special teaching, that special relationship, that momentary “high” which will open the door to self-understanding and liberation. But this can turn into serious delusion, and unending quest to escape looking at what is closest to home and perhaps most painful. Out of fear and yearning for someone special to help them to see clearly, people sometimes fall into unhealthy dependency relationships with meditation teachers, forgetting that no matter how good the teacher, ultimately you have to live the inner work yourself, and that work always comes from the cloth of your own life.

I will continue the meditation practice and document my thoughts on this.

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