Sitting in the dark theater at Lotus Post in Santa Monica, I hear UCLA Certified Mindfulness Facilitator Jahna Perricone explain the benefits of meditation. According to significant research by the UCLA MARC (Mindful Awareness Research Center), meditation has been shown to “address health issues such as lower blood pressure and boost the immune system; increase attention and focus, including aid those suffering from ADHD; help with difficult mental states such as anxiety and depression, fostering well-being and less emotional reactivity; and thicken the brain in areas in charge of decision making, emotional flexibility, and empathy.”
Jahna then takes us into an awareness of our breath, breathing in and out easily, and guides us in a basic meditation. She soothingly invites us to think of our mind as a blank, open sky with clouds passing through it, which are our thoughts. She says, “The sky is never upset if there are dark clouds passing through, besides the bright white billowy clouds. The sky does not get attached to the rainbow that might appear.” As someone who’s been sitting in regular meditation for years, I am grateful for such a simple yet effective analogy of the preferred attitude towards thoughts that come and go.
As we turn our focus deeply within, we hear other-worldly sustained tones coming from the Tibetan bowls played by Michael Perricone. He explains afterwards that playing the bowls is also a meditation – gently building the initial attack, focusing on just the right touch for sustaining the tone, choosing which next bowl will harmonize beautifully with the one still ringing out. He has been collecting the bowls over many years – some are antiques, hundreds of years old, some more modern replicas, all sounding absolutely gorgeous and inspiring.
If you haven’t begun a daily meditation practice yet, I invite you to begin with sitting quietly for just 5 minutes at a time. Set a timer on your computer or iPhone or other device so you don’t have to think about the time, and allow yourself to let go of all your concerns for those 5 minutes. Relax as deeply as you can and just focus on your breathing in and out. Thoughts may come and go, but as soon as you catch yourself involved in thought, gently release it without judgment and bring your focus back to your breath. If you can do this for just 5 minutes at a time, you may find yourself fitting in more 5-minute meditation breaks throughout the day, for the pause that TRULY refreshes! Namaste!