A week ago I completed a six week course in NeuroMindfulness Meditation. (I just typed mindful medication in the headline and then did it again. Maybe because if I could take a pill to still my roaming thoughts it would be easier to meditate.)
The course was taught by David Mercier whose book “A Beautiful Medicine” is now required reading in at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. David spent two years in Sri Lanka practicing meditation as a Buddhist monk. He is also a skilled acupuncturist. And he lives down the road so the class was held at the yoga studio where I practice five mornings a week.
At the first session we had to commit to meditating at least seven minutes a day. How hard could that be? David recommended getting an app on our smart phones that could be set for various lengths of time and would signal the end of a session with a chime or gong (there were a number of sounds to choose from). He said the chime was to reward us for taking time to medicate. Jeeze, did it again. I meant meditate! Turns out getting the app set up proved challenging. I’m sure any one of my grandchildren could have done it in 30 seconds. But I did finally get it set up. Oh, my! Seven minutes seemed like a long time.
But that was just at first. Within a couple of days I set a timer for fifteen minutes. It seemed it took me seven minutes to get settled.
“Breathing in, I am safe. Breathing out, I am safe” was the mantra suggested by David. His belief is that we are all in a constant state of awareness based on the primal need to survive. We are always on the lookout for saber-tooth tigers and grizzly bears. I think that is not so far from the truth. I have an amazing startle response. I tell my husband that if I’d been a black belt he would have been dead years ago. Even my cleaning lady learned to knock on my open office door after I shot out of my chair one day when she came in to see if I had trash in my office trash can.
Here’s the best thing I learned from David and he taught this in the first session. The goal is not to get your brain to stop, the goal is to notice the intrusion and name it. Thinking, thinking or hearing, hearing or smelling, smelling, or feeling, feeling. The focus is not so much on the breathing. Something different in this training is that we share our experiences with the process. That has been enormously helpful. Once the class was over I wondered if I would continue, but most mornings I’m sitting cross legged on my bolster setting my phone alarm for fifteen minutes. I would not have anticipated that result.