I’m so excited! My all-time favourite meditation teacher, Jon Kabat-Zinn, is coming to Ottawa on Sep 21 to lead a mass meditation on Parliament Hill in honour of the UN International Day of Peace (“Peace Day”). This year’s theme is TOGETHER and is focused on showing support for refugees and migrants, and to stand up to discrimination and xenophobia.
I was first introduced to Jon Kabat-Zinn’s meditation years ago, when I took the Mindfulness Meditation and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy course at the Toronto Western Hospital. Jon Kabat-Zinn helps his patients to stay present and pay attention to their thoughts and emotions without judgment. This can be especially challenging if you are suffering from anxiety, depression, or chronic pain. I remember doing the “raisin meditation”, where we were each given a raisin and asked to pay close attention to it, from how it felt in our hands to how it looked to how it felt inside our mouths (slowly experiencing the burst of flavour on our tongues).
Fast forward five years, and I still rely on his “body scan” meditation to help me stay grounded and to bring my awareness to my body, where I can deeply feel any suppressed emotions. We often think that meditation is only useful when going through hard times, but I find that it is also extremely useful during times of joy, to bring some calmness to our over-excited minds. When I hear his voice, I instantly feel at home – it is a voice I’ve come to trust completely.
When I do the body scan, I wear comfy clothes and lay down on my bed or sofa, covered by a warm blanket. I listen to his voice tell me how to relax each part of my body. First my left toe, then the bottom of my left foot, then my ankle, the top of my foot, my lower leg…. you can see how it takes 40 minutes to get through every part of the body. My dad learned this type of meditation when he was 21, and often uses this technique to fall asleep. I find myself falling asleep too while doing this meditation….the ultimate relaxation.
Jon Kabat-Zinn founded the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts in 1979, and for the last almost 40 years, has been helping millions to deal with chronic pain and to develop meditation practices that help to deal with emotional/physical pain, as well as nurture compassion, empathy, and love (the natural state of our hearts). I love how he has a PHd in molecular biology and is also a devout Buddhist. His combination of the two worlds is what we need right now – people who can bridge the gap between science and alternative medicine.
Here is his definition of mindfulness:
Mindfulness is about paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and without judgment.
Mindfulness is also about having an inner knowing of who you really are… it is a way of coming back home to yourself.