In mindfulness meditation, we use the breath as a way to get into the “inside.” While focusing our attention within, we can remain grounded in the present moment, uniting the mind with the body. As we stay mindfully alert, we can ardently direct attention on the breath as the object of meditation, stilling both mind and body.
In meditation, a subtle but critical learning opportunity exists in understanding “what is” in an objective manner and in reading our biofeedback sensors. Ardently redirecting the mind to the object of meditation helps us learn how to direct the mind to a desired focus. At the same time, the practice of focusing offers a deeper comprehension of the nature of the mind.
We can apply the skills and insight developed in meditation towards removal of stress. Our objectives are to understand two crucial questions:
1. How do we play a part in causing stress?
2. How can we replace unproductive behavior with better patterns that can maintain our sense of well-being?
Instead of focusing on outside factors as the cause of stress, by going “inside” we will learn how to react to outside factors in a way that does not cause stress. This method can only be applied if we gain confidence for directing the mind toward thinking productively. Meditation practice offers a safe, private, and realistic way to hone the skills required to direct the mind in a more productive manner. Sensitive to our biofeedback mechanism, honed in meditation, our body and mind will alert us whenever we need to use the skills we have practiced to overcome a stressful encounter.
Getting ourselves deeply familiar with our mind and body is the first necessary step to understand stress factors and how to overcome them skillfully. The practice of getting to know deeply and transcendentally requires a state of calmness for seeing what cannot be noticed otherwise.
Acquiring the skills needed to understand stress, the cause of stress, and the way to end stress requires effort. Just like learning any new skills, once a person is able to master the skills, then the process becomes effortless. Three P’s are requisite to skill building. These include the frequency of Practice, Persistence, and Patience. Practicing together with other people offers support and synergy towards mastery of skills.
Why learn from the inside out? Because the outside is not as dependable, and it is difficult to control. The only thing you can control is how you relate to the outside environment. Besides, who will take care of ourselves better and have our best interests at heart than ourselves? Moreover, is often the case that our own perceptions and interpretations of reality cause stress.
Mindfulness meditation practice helps us look deeply in to the “inside,” develop well honed concentration skills, and utilize our biofeedback tools to put us on alert whenever a certain unproductive reaction is about to occur. Then, by discerning what reaction (or non-reaction) would be wiser to pursue, we can redirect our mind away from our usual automatic and conditioned response toward a more productive and non-stressful response.
The following exercises are designed to help you build skills in overcoming stress from the inside out.
- Reduce stimulation from the outside (e.g., lower or turn off TVs, radios, electronic instruments, etc.) and find more time to be alone in silence. Notice your “inside.”
- Apply objective/detached observation with regard to how you internally relate to an object or phenomenon, arising first.
- Contemplate changing your inner attitude or perspective toward an object or a phenomenon from negative to positive. Then consciously apply a change in attitude toward a situation that you have experienced.
- Focus on how you habitually relate to an outside object or situation as well as a phenomenon arising from inside of you. Contemplate useful or beneficial changes (with details) leading to wiser ways of responding that produce happiness.