Mindfulness Practices to help Reduce Your Worry & Suffering
My last post dealt with various mindfulness-based practices and skills that may help to reduce created suffering due to excessive worrying. I will add a few more practices in this post. First, let us go back to Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, and his Meditations. In Book 2, page 14 he advises himself (also us) to allow nothing to interfere with our emotionally stable directing mind (as I interpret – the mindfulness-based mind using prajna/wisdom skills). He also reminds us that we are an integrated part of the force of NATURE that governs all worldly and universal activities (change, impermanence, our good/bad fortune). Since we have no independent origination, and since we are subject to all forces tied to cause and effect in NATURE, Marcus tells us to deal with our tasks in a diligent manner – but a diligent manner including dignity, sympathy and dispassionate justice. It does appear that Marcus Aurelius had a touch of Buddhism and/or Taoism in his philosophy of life.
Recently Tricycle Magazine presented five other practices that may be helpful in reducing secondary suffering related to compulsive worry. Zen teacher Barry Magid recommends that we learn to leave ourselves alone. Do your utmost best to STOP self-criticism, self-devaluation, and feeling “less than” in your worldly activities and interactions. Just sitting in zazen will open up your mind-doors to this possibility. So do more meditation – just sitting and observing your thoughts go by like clouds in the sky. Practice bare attention and pure awareness without any storylines or evaluations whatsoever. Just be aware of what comes up (worry, reasons to worry, stories about your worrying), and LET IT GO as you bring attention back to your breath. Do this over, and over, and over again.
Teacher Gil Fronsdal recommends that we practice more and more metta, loving kindness meditation. This is my personally most favored meditation practice. It can do wonders for one’s troubled mind. It is both a practice in self-compassion and compassion for others. Since you are the one worrying, do your loving kindness meditation on yourself – and possibly for the person/s you are worrying about. May I be safe. May I be healthy, May I be free from suffering and worry. May I be happy. May I live with more ease.
The Sri Lankan monk, Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, recommends that we practice more and more vipassana meditation (insight meditation). Practice on both your joy and your suffering. Bring full attention then concentration to the very earliest arising of either joy or worry (suffering) in your awareness, and get to know their arising qualities. Just pay concentrative attention to their arising and their falling away. Do not go into storylines and memories about your joy or worry. Just observe closely their arising and falling away while in meditation. Do not track associations or causal thinking. Pay strong attention to only the arising and falling away of these mind-states.
Insight meditation teacher, Peter Doobinin, recommends that you do much more walking meditation. Just walk inside or outside (better I think). Walk at the pace you desire. Pay attention to your feet touching earth and the movement of your legs lifting, placing forward, and landing on the earth. Hold your hands by your sides, in front or behind you. Just pay attention to the walking body movements. Buddhist teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, sometimes add a more sensory approach to his famous standard walking meditation format. After walking in meditation on your legs moving and your feet touching earth (complete stability in sensation), you may want to add paying attention to what your sense-doors perceive. What do you see, hear, feel, taste, smell? Just notice and note it; do not evaluate it or judge yourself or others.
For more information refer to Marcus Aurelius (translation by M. Hammond, introduction by D. Clay). (2006). Meditations. New York: Penguin Classics, Book 2, page 14. Also see http://www.tricycle.com/practice/five-practices-change-your-mind
By Anthony R. Quintiliani, PhD., LADC
From the Eleanor R. Liebman Center for Secular Meditation in Monkton, Vermont
Author of Mindful Happiness
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