Help me meditate.
August 26, 2009 6:58 AM   Subscribe

I’m interested in learning more about meditation. I also have ADD and find it impossible to shut off my brain and clear my mind.

After discussing it with a friend, a friend whose constant calm manner I find inspiring, I think I’d like to give meditation a try. My main goal is to be a bit more calm. I’m generally easy going but I’m quick to lose my temper and raise my voice. I come from a family of screamers and I find myself falling into the same pattern when it comes to parenting. I gotta cut that shit out.

I’m looking for any advice, tips, resources, etc to get me started.

A couple of things:

As mentioned, I have ADD (officially diagnosed by a neuro-psychologist, not medicated because nothing seems to work.) Phrases like “clear your mind” are lost on me. I can’t clear it, it’s always going. My ADD has contributed to lifelong insomnia because I just can’t shut down at night. I’m not looking for a cure for ADD, I only mention it because I suspect it will be an obstacle. I’m especially interested in hearing from people who understand what ADD is like and have experience dealing with ADD and meditation.

I’m an atheist and a total skeptic. Any spiritual, new-agey, or religious components will be a turn off. I need to approach this from a purely practical point of view. I’m all for clutter clearing and arranging furniture but any talk of Feng-Shui makes me want to throw things. I’m not looking to find enlightenment and/or Jesus. I’m open minded though, so if meditation leads to these things I won’t reject them.

I’d also be interested in learning of any beginner classes in my area (metro Boston) as long as they’re not scammey, new-agey or spiritual. Why do all these places need to have a Buddha out front?

So far my only experience with anything of this sort was from a sleep doctor who, among other things, gave me a relaxation CD. It involved progressively relaxing my muscles, starting from my toes, and clearing my thoughts as I worked my way up. By the time I got to my shins I was thinking about Princess Leia’s gold slave outfit and then I moved on to my favorite ice cream flavors. Next thing I knew I was supposed to be relaxing my forehead but I had a boner and wanted a hot fudge sundae. Yes, I tried it a bunch of times.

So yeah, I suspect this won’t be easy. But I’m ready to try.
posted by bondcliff to Health & Fitness (35 answers total) 97 users marked this as a favorite
I just started down pretty much the same path. This google video is what inspired me to start, and the most important thing I've figured out so far is that the real meat of the practice is in bringing your focus back, not so much retaining it. So don't be too frustrated if the leia slave outfit keeps showing up; the key is to focus on breathing again, even if it's 5 minutes later.

This is a great audio series and the group has a podcast too.

And this book, Mindfulness in Plain English, is pretty straightforward and non-"spiritual", and free in pdf format.

In general, it sounds like mindfulness, or vispassana, meditation is what you want. You can find plenty of references to it in older posts tagged with meditation.
posted by condour75 at 7:15 AM on August 26, 2009 [4 favorites]

1. I'm one of the most dedicated atheists I know, and I'm also really into thinking about Buddhism. I like to think about Buddhism (particularly meditation and especially from the Zen perspective) as a neat sort of mind hack. Learning how to meditate taught me how to deal with stress (both petty and existential) in a much more satisfying way than religion. The moment I knew meditation could help me was when a Buddhist teacher I had explained that (forgive the cheesy simile) thoughts in your head are like clouds in the sky. They'll pass through, but they don't really define the sky.

2. It'll be a lot easier to learn how to meditate if you have someone guiding you the first few times. This could just be your friend who meditates sitting with you and periodically telling you to focus on your breath.

3. I haven't been yet, but I've heard good things about the Greater Boston Buddhist Cultural Center in Cambridge. Looks like they have a Zen meditation class (though the information looks out of date, so I'd give them a call).
posted by oinopaponton at 7:17 AM on August 26, 2009

Also, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind might be a helpful book to read. Not new-agey at all, just a practical guide to Zen meditation and mindfulness.
posted by oinopaponton at 7:18 AM on August 26, 2009

True Meditation. Yes, there is a Buddha on the cover, but see this review.
posted by Wordwoman at 7:21 AM on August 26, 2009

I'd suggest a meditation retreat. Most are 7 to 9 days of silent meditation practice. By immersing yourself in meditation with proper instruction from trained instructors, you can get a tremendous jump start to your practice. I'd suggest checking out Spirit Rock in California or IMS.
posted by TorontoSandy at 7:22 AM on August 26, 2009

Simply put, and saying this as an adult ADD sufferer, you need to learn to not get involved in the thoughts that you have.

There is a book called Mindfulness in Plain English that was a help to me. The thing is that it can be hard to ignore your thoughts as they come up, becasue ADD people have a broken filter. Princess Leia's gold costume and paying your bills and planning a wedding all seem to be equally important.

Concentrate on your breathing, feel the breath on your nostrils, and when thoughts come up, think 'hmm, there's Princess Leia, and there's a sundae, and what language do they speak in Guayana, etc...' but don't follow the thoughts, just observe them as they occur and let them go.

It will take practice, but you will get better with time, and it will help in all kinds of situations.

Someone here said once that they were able to quiet the monkey mind by saying to themsleves 'listen to the funny noises my brain makes.' I do this sometimes, too, and it helps.

Good luck!

posted by Ecgtheow at 7:26 AM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

I’d also be interested in learning of any beginner classes in my area (metro Boston) as long as they’re not scammey, new-agey or spiritual. Why do all these places need to have a Buddha out front?

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that you are probably not going to find many (if any) regular classes in your area that don't have a Buddha out front, and even if you do, you are no more likely to enjoy them. A good beginners' class at a good Buddhist temple is not going to come off as scammy, new-agey, or spiritual. Meditation for beginners is purely mechanical and technical, and they know this. I think you'll be better off learning these techniques from the people who have spent the most time perfecting them. How you apply them is purely up to you.
posted by hermitosis at 7:27 AM on August 26, 2009

I, too, am an atheist and total skeptic. And I meditate, but I'm a bit bashful about it because I don't want people to think I'm some kind of crackpot.

I don't live in the Boston area, so I can't give you any specific suggestions, but I can say the places with a Buddha out front aren't all bad. Buddhism, although referred to as a religion, is fundamentally non-theistic, so although new-agey bullshit is a risk, God shouldn't be a factor. And these people have been studying and practicing meditation for thousands of years. A teacher can help you.

I've had good experiences with Soto Zen, and, strangely, Tibetan Buddhism. It's all been very dry, which I appreciate. No fairies. (Although my understanding is that if I was a real student of Tibetan Buddhism I'd run into some fairies further on, but by then I expect they--and maybe most things--would be explicit metaphors, and subsequently non-threatening to my dogmatic materialism.)

...And, for the record, your report about Princess Leia, ice cream, and boners is fairly characteristic of the meditation experience. Things will maybe calm over time, but step one is definitely to just notice what's going on. And what's going on is typically hilarious.
posted by tsmo at 7:35 AM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

See also: Buddhism Without Beliefs and the books of Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are and Coming To Our Senses. Kabat-Zinn is very emphatically not a Buddhist, using the best of Buddhist techniques and applying them in a medical context at Massachussetts General Hospital. Hey, you're in metro Boston, maybe you could go directly to Kabat-Zinn's place?

If you're a total skeptic, you ought to be able to go to a local place with a Buddha out front in a spirit of tough-minded inquiry: "I'll go investigate, I'll take what's useful, and I won't get scammed or tricked into believing anything I don't feel like believing."
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 7:38 AM on August 26, 2009

There are different approaches, one of them is a part of yoga tradition: the central idea is that as a precondition, the physical mind, emotional mind and intellectual mind have to be free of tension. To cover the first of these you have to do some physical exercises, to get rid of tension in the emotional mind, you have to do breath exercises and finally you have to concentrate your mind on an object. This is not meditation, but that's something you start with. You have to keep in mind that you don't meditate but make yourself available to meditation, and then it may or may not proceed at its will. If you want to convince yourself that it really works and is a powerful thing, you can try meditating for a very extended period - for example, for five hours. Even if otherwise circumstances are not conductive to meditation, simply due to the extended length of time, it will work. One other thing that is helpful is a combination of things that affect different senses at the same time: incense stick, good green tea, quiet ambient sound (e.g. recording of rain), darkness or a large yantra print right before you. A posture is also very helpful: a half-padmasana or a full one if you can do it. HTH
posted by rainy at 7:42 AM on August 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'm going to recommend a book called The Mindful Way through Depression. I know you're not dealing with depression, but hear me out. This book is written by researchers who study the use of meditation for treatment of things like depression, anxiety, chronic pain, etc. It's got zero new-age or religious anything.

The main reason I'm recommending this book, though, is because it includes an eight-week program that you can use to ease yourself in to meditation and mindfulness. This reproduces the course that the authors use at their clinic. What I particularly like about this is that the program walks you through a number of different meditation practices, and in the end encourages you to choose to continue with those that serve you the best. Furthermore, I like the fact that there is something new to do each week -- this helped me a lot in keeping my interest up.

The book also includes a CD with some of the meditation exercises on it.

I know the Boston public library has this book, although, umm, not right now because it's currently sitting in front of me! And it's overdue, so I'll be returning it shortly.
posted by wyzewoman at 7:45 AM on August 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

My husband has ADD and he just bought an audiobook on guided meditation. I cannot remember the author's name. (Dr somebody... I'm sure that was helpful. I'll ask him.) Anyway, he likes it, and though my husband is a Christian, the book is not religious.

I don't have ADD but I do meditate, and a wandering mind is a very, very common "problem" amongst meditators. It's expected. There's no need to tell yourself you're "doing it wrong" if your mind wanders. You may be predisposed to a wandering mind more than the neurotypical person, but it's only a problem to the extent you make it one. You said you have a temper; probably much of it is caused by being angry at yourself. Meditation will help you accept yourself, and the first step to that is accepting your thoughts as they come. I often envision it like being in a train station, watching the trains (my thoughts) go by. I can watch the trains, but I don't need to get on them. If I get on a train (i.e. follow the thought farther), I simply "get off" at the next stop and start again.

TL;DR: Everyone has a wandering mind. Most of meditation is just accepting your thoughts and letting them go.

I can see how Buddhism can be perceived as new-agey, except it's not new, at all, in fact it's older than Christianity, which I doubt you'd call new-age. It's just that a large contingent of Western practitioners also subscribe to other non-Buddhist beliefs, such as crystals and reiki, that are associated with the new age movement. There is no need for you to do any of that; in fact, you don't need to believe anything in Buddhism, and I'd walk away from any center that tells you otherwise. Buddha is NOT a god or supernatural in any sense.

You'll see others bowing to the Buddha statue and generally being reverent, but as long as you're not disruptive, you don't need to bow or do anything else that makes you uncomfortable. Heck, outside of the meditation time, feel free to question anything you've heard. Any center worth its salt can handle that.

Any spiritual, new-agey, or religious components will be a turn off but then you say I'm open minded

So try this on: other people believe stuff that you don't like, and you're strong enough to be around them without feeling like you have to believe it too. No one's gonna revoke your atheist card. Just because your auto mechanic is a pagan doesn't mean he can't fix your car. People can be full of shit on one subject but know other stuff that's useful to you. Just use the stuff that's useful and ignore the rest.

TL;DR: You don't have to believe anything in Buddhism to get something out of meditation.

on preview - I also recommend Kabat-Zinn and Stephen Batchelor.
posted by desjardins at 7:48 AM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

On non-preview: Kabat-Zinn, who game warden was talking about, is one of the authors of this book.

Also, I forgot to mention: The Mindful Way through Depression makes a huge point of how your mind will wander when you meditate, how this is normal, how you shouldn't beat yourself up over that. To the contrary, whenever you notice that it wanders, you are noticing something about your mind, which is the whole point. I think this general tone would be helpful for you.
posted by wyzewoman at 7:49 AM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Sounds to me like you're blaming ADD for something that everyone, ADD or not, has to deal with when they meditate.

Everyone gets distracted. Novice meditators get distracted, and people who have been doing it for decades get distracted. Scatterbrained folks like us get distracted, and people with razor-sharp attention spans get distracted too.

In fact, there are some approaches to meditation that see the distraction as an essential part of the process. The point of the practice, in these traditions, is to learn about the way your thoughts and feelings distract you from what's going on around you. And so you let your mind wander, over and over and over and over again, and every time it wanders you notice it wandering and bring it back to the here and now. The more you practice, the more familiar you get with the paths your wandering mind likes to take, and the easier it is for you to bring it back home again. And that — according to this school of thought, at least — is a sort of wisdom.

Not everyone celebrates distraction quite that much, of course. But even in the traditions where it's seen as a hindrance and not as part of the process, it's recognized that it's a hindrance that everyone, beginner or expert, has to deal with.

Point is, don't kick yourself over it.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:51 AM on August 26, 2009

Oh hi desjardins. Yeah, what she said.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:52 AM on August 26, 2009

When it comes to meditation, we're all ADD, so don't let your mind chatter discourage you. Starting out, if you're able to bring yourself back from the chatter just a few times during your meditation, you're doing fine, and will make progress if you stick with it. The important thing is to notice how quiet things get every once in awhile, and how nice that feels. Eventually, you'll start leaning towards the stillness, and then things will get easier. But don't expect the chatter to ever do more than take a break now and then. Like all the rest of us, you've lived your whole life, starting when you were young, in the presence of mind chatter, and you shouldn't expect it to ever cease for very long. But those brief periods of stillness can do wonders for you. I'm with Wordwoman in recommending True Meditation.
posted by markcmyers at 7:58 AM on August 26, 2009

I strongly suggest this. it's the most stripped-down, non-ritualized, efficacious system ever, and it's really really simple. Complex meditation systems feed the mind's craving for complexity.....which meditation is about cutting through.

People using this method report great results. I've been doing it for five years (after years of zen, asana, contemplation, etc) and can't praise it highly enough.

If you want to try before you buy, here's the free web-based version by the same author. Not as detailed, but it's more than good enough to get you started.

And don't sweat the ADD. That's how your mind works. You are not your mind.
posted by jimmyjimjim at 8:12 AM on August 26, 2009

There are many different kinds of meditation which often seem in contradiction to the others. I find I often (as an ADD-ish person) switch among them depending on my mood, but the key to getting any benefit from them is:
1) Persistence. That is, you have to do it for months and months even if you think it's not working. Indeed, thoughts of it not working demanding your attention are one of the ways it seems to fail.
2) A certain kind of understanding of what you're after. Sometimes, this amounts to recognizing success when you have it. Meditation is ultimately about letting go. At the risk of redundancy, I'll say it's about letting go of the obstacles to meditation. (I mentioned one such obstacle in 1). I'll now add one more. (They are ultimately all the same--namely refusals to let go.) You said:
Any spiritual, new-agey, or religious components will be a turn off
Meditation experience is chock full of turn-offs. Also turn-ons. These need to be tolerated. By "tolerated" I mean, they need to be neither embraced nor fought. Later, after meditating, you can embrace and/or fight whatever you like, but during practice, if you "meet the Buddha in the road," you need to neither kill him, nor feel special. You need to just go on with what you're doing. Indeed, skill at doing just that is part of what success feels like. But, remember to not get too success oriented too, since that's the opposite of letting go.
posted by Obscure Reference at 8:32 AM on August 26, 2009

Egctheow has it right. It's not about emptying your mind of these random thoughts, it's more about not following those thoughts when they bob up. It took me a long time to understand that myself.

You know how some little kids endlessly pester their parents when they're doing something -- "mommy, look! Mommy, watch me! Watch this! Watch this! Watch this!" but a lot of times they happily go back to whatever they're doing if their parent just says, "yes, I see you" and doesn't even acknowledge them any further? But if on the other hand the parent ignores them or tries to tell the kid not to bother them, that just makes the kid say "mommy, watch me! WATCH ME! WATCH ME!" even louder?

That's how I think of it. The word for those crazy random thoughts that I'm most fond of is "monkey brain," and most of the time your monkey brain is just like a little kid who just wants to know you saw something it did. Ignoring your monkey brain is just going to make it try harder to get your attention -- but if it comes running up to you with random thoughts, and all you think is just simply "yes, okay, Princess leia's slave outfit, I see you," and turning back to what you were doing, then that may be all you need to do.

Put another way -- become passive about these random thoughts. Instead of following these thoughts off on their tangents, just kind of let them happen, as if you were watching a movie or a slide show. There's a difference between,

"there's Princess Leia. Wow, she was hot in that costume in STAR WARS -- how the hell did she wear that? Wait, was that a COLD costume? What the hell am I doing thinking about Princess Leia anyway? And why is this reminding me of strawberry ice cream? Why are those two thoughts related? What is going on with my brain?...and why the hell is this giving me a boner? Wait, do I suddenly have an ice cream fetish? Or is this over that slave girl costume?...yeah, it must be the costume that's giving me a boner...although, man, I'd love a hot fudge sundae right now -- ooh, a hot fudge sundae WITh strawberry ice cream! That'd be AWESOME! But only if the ice cream is fresh...wait, what was I doing again?..."


"There's Princess Leia. There's strawberry ice cream. There's a boner. There's a hot fudge sundae."

You're just plain not going to completely empty your thoughts of everything entirely; so think of it more about what to do ABOUT the thoughts that enter your head. Which is, nothing. Just let them happen.

Try that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:42 AM on August 26, 2009 [4 favorites]

Breathing/concentration meditation is the easiest (alternate link), at least for me. There's nothing mystical about it. Its just focusing on your breathing. I believe that all meditation is just a psychological trick to get us to unfocus from our natural thoughts and worries and this method is its most distilled and pure form.

I am a skeptic also, so no worries. There are no deities, chakras, etc with this method. Not to mention all the scientifically verified benefits of meditation.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:08 AM on August 26, 2009

Atheist here. I wanted something simple, described with precise language. [pdf]

Also, precise and modern:
posted by zeek321 at 9:09 AM on August 26, 2009

For ADD-ish types (some might say Westerners) more active meditations are good - for instance, writing three pages stream of consciousness or simply going for a brisk walk/good run. The whole "blank mind" thing in meditation is a dirty trick played on beginners; no one can really clear their mind. In your case, since your brain is inclined to be busy, letting it loose for set periods might actually make some of your thoughts easier to track.
posted by medea42 at 9:44 AM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

I strongly recommend guided meditations when you're starting out. As many posters upthread have said, it's not about thinking nothing - it's about just letting the thoughts be, and gradually the thoughts will be fewer. Listening to a guided meditation gives you a positive focus for the inevitable thoughts rather than leaving your mind free to roam at will.
posted by widdershins at 10:21 AM on August 26, 2009

I suggest The Cambridge Insight Meditation Center. The have introductory classes and introductory half day retreats. (I think)

I use to meditate there and I think that it fits the bill. I'm a skeptic and had no problems dealing with the new-age level. They are rather focused on practicing mediation. It shouldn't be hard for you to figure out which talks are not going to be helpful to you.

"Meditative practice," it's about practicing, it will take the rest of your life to get it down. Put effort into it if it is valuable to you, but don't rush it. You can get to the point where you can watch the process by which you begin down the road to anger and you can get to the point where that is a decision and not a habit.
posted by bdc34 at 11:55 AM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

In my view, and according to how I've been taught, meditation is about creating an opportunity or an invitation to put everything down. That is different than saying you're *forcing* everything to be put down--you just make that gesture of allowing everything to rest, and then whatever happens, you just accept. If nothing wants to be put down but would rather just continue to spin around like crazy, then that's what happens. But the fact that you created that intention and that gesture is still significant.

Maybe you could liken it to setting aside a nap time for a child. You can tell them, I don't care if you sleep or not, but for a few minutes we're going to turn down the lights and leave everything quiet. Then the child suddenly discovers that they did desperately need that rest. (By the way, I don't mean this metaphor to indicate that meditation should be about being drowsy or unalert, but rather that you're relaxing certain mental habits that you feel like you need to hold together all day long.)

One thing I would recommend is not to let the instructions themselves become a hindrance. For example, just sitting quietly for 20 minutes a day without being engaged in any external activity would be a fine practice, IMO. Taking a nice unhurried walk around your neighborhood every day would also be a good practice.

I think the traditional instructions about following the breath, etc. can be difficult for Westerners because we're already so goal- and agenda-driven. The point of meditation is not to take that ordinary project-driven mind (even if the "project" is just keeping yourself distracted with random thoughts and information) and then let it take over running the new "project" of meditation. The point would be more to relax that type of mind somewhat, and see whether it is really as necessary as it seems and what an alternative to it might be.

Another suggestion would be to experiment with very short practice sessions. For example, set some kind of alarm to go off once an hour, and when it does, just briefly drop whatever goals or thoughts you're pursuing and, for a few seconds, just be present with whatever is there.

One teacher I have a lot of respect for would say he wished he could convince his students to practice meditation for just two seconds every single day. It may not be about how much time is put in, or about making a real strenuous effort; just that gesture of inviting everything to be put down once per day could be enough to bring forward something more fundamental about what you are.

I do think it is good, though, if you can find a practice that you can do every single day. Experiment with your capacity, and find something that's easy enough that you don't even have to think about skipping it. Better to do something that seems "too easy" than nothing at all--in which case, you may just stay lost in your ordinary distractions forever...
posted by dixie flatline at 12:11 PM on August 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

Yes, I tried it a bunch of times.

You think you're doing it wrong, but you were actually doing it completely right. Your mind is going to wander. But you noticed it, and brought yourself back. When your mind wanders again, you again notice it, and bring yourself back.

The more you do it, the easier it will get over time. Think of it as strength-training for your spastic mental muscle. That's why it's called meditation practice.

I have ADD and mindfulness meditation is one of the most helpful non-medication treatments I've found for myself. I sometimes think another name for ADD could be Mindfulness Deficit Disorder - so mindfulness training goes straight to the source.
posted by granted at 12:45 PM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

I second this post on the monkey mind.

I'm in your situation, here's what I did:

(a) I've taken meditation classes. I generally loathed meditating alone because I could always think of more interesting things to do than this, but class forces you to do it, and it's easier to have to sit still in a group than it is on your own when you can up and quit at any second.

I dunno if I'd recommend going the Buddhist route for that unless there's no other options. I find the whole Buddhism approach to it very hard to relate to, and I wasn't too fond of doing the long chants before meditation when I tried it. (Not a Buddhist, obviously.)

(b) I force myself to do it for ten minutes a day, I set a timer and everything. Even the idea of doing 15 minutes a day on my own brings my resistance up (and I've been doing the daily thing for over 100 days now), but at 10 minutes my brain is all "Okay, I could suck it up for ten minutes." Maybe five minutes works for you at the start, whatever. But go with a definite time limit and try to work on it for that time limit alone.

(c) Concentrate on the breathing ONLY. Don't worry about scouring your mind to be a perfect blank. Take deep breaths, counting till four (or whatever count you can hit while taking a slow deep inhale), then hold that breath and count till four. Then exhale slowly to the count of four. Repeat for ten minutes. Think about the numbers, concentrate on the numbers. It helps to keep "monkey mind" from thinking about whatever was on TV last night or what you need to go do when the ten minutes is up.

At the VERY least, taking the deep breaths for ten minutes, even if your brain goes berserk and you can't shut it off, will really help. I started being a calmer person after 30 days of this. I recently did a RAD self-defense class and doing deep breathing before the simulation helped keep me calm and sane instead of freaking out the way I had the previous time I did it.

Good luck! Now guess what I'm going to go do....
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:17 PM on August 26, 2009

And then, there's this more western approach to meditation.
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:43 PM on August 26, 2009

TorontoSandy: "I'd suggest a meditation retreat. Most are 7 to 9 days of silent meditation practice. By immersing yourself in meditation with proper instruction from trained instructors, you can get a tremendous jump start to your practice. I'd suggest checking out Spirit Rock in California or IMS."

I'm not sure this is the best bet...I'm not officially "ADD" but I'm a bit..."energetic" and have trouble "quieting my mind" or whatever...I can't imagine a week of silent meditation, even in as beautiful place as Spirit Rock (I've been there briefly, it is very nice).

I would recommend starting with a gentle yoga class. That way you aren't forced into OMIGODMUSTBEQUIETANDFOCUSONLY. You can ease yourself into that, and then try some guided meditation classes.
posted by radioamy at 8:52 PM on August 26, 2009

Anything physical will help a lot, although it might not technically be meditation, if you get into a really hard workout it will have a lot of the same effects in terms of clearing your mind
posted by kathrineg at 11:07 PM on August 27, 2009

I'm a Christian BUT everything useful I learned about meditation came from my martial arts training, which I don't really associate much with my faith, for most practical purposes. There are a number of ways to meditate but here's the one that came easiest for me and I still use quite frequently (because, well, its pretty simple to use):

1. Sit comfortably, legs crossed, back straight, wrists wresting on the knees. Eyes closed.

2. Wait for a thought to come to mind. Any thought. "I am sitting in my gym." Whatever. "I am going to be late for work." "I like cheese." Whatever.

3. Actively let the thought go. Don't dismiss the thought, don't refuse to think about it, just release it from your brain. Essentially you are telling your brain "I don't have to think about that right now." Let it float away into a mist.

4. Repeat this with each following thought. If a previous thought that you already let go surfaces again, let it go again. Continue doing this for as long as it takes until you reach the point that no more thoughts are occurring. It may at first, for you, take a while to reach this point, but with practice your brain will start to realize what the end goal is and be a little less resistant to *not thinking.*

I've always found when I reach that meditative "state" that I can feel it in my head, like a forward-pushing force on my eyeballs - almost a little painful but not quite. Then its just a matter of remaining in that state for a while and letting yourself not think and just relax. Its quite pleasant.
posted by allkindsoftime at 5:16 AM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm ADHD, and I also meditate.

I started it a couple of years ago off and on, and when I moved a few months ago, I was able to devote myself to it pretty seriously. I study with a group called Seattle Dharma Punx. Don't let the name potentially turn you off, it's a great group. I chose them because they have a concentration on Mindfulness Meditation, and it's a very friendly space for beginning meditators. Every meeting, we have a 40 minute guided meditation, followed about people commenting on the meditation, then a Dharma Talk. There are many different people there for many different reasons - there really is no 'agenda', there is no class, and there's no cost - just give what you can afford donation-wise afterwards. Some people only come for the meditation and then leave.

There is a Boston group; I found their Facebook page here: Boston Dharma Punx.

I started meditating for the spiritual enlightenment, but also for the ADHD. Personally, I've found it helpful somewhat. When I get into a situation where I can tell that my ADHD is getting in the way, I find that it's easier now to step back and look at the situation more calmly instead of immediately having a freakout over it. I can also tell that I'm more focused on my work.
posted by spinifex23 at 4:07 PM on September 1, 2009

As Ira Glass says, you've got to "work through the suck."

What you're learning and more importantly, practicing, is the act of *noticing* your thoughts (whether or not you turn them off) and having to be *forgiving and kind* to yourself when you realize you've wandered (rather then beating yourself up for getting distracted).

Perhaps contrary to the way you've been thinking - the more you do wander during your meditation, the more opportunity you'll have to practice the skills.

is one place to start. The Buddha's *are* silly at first - but they're just reminders. Think of them as Morpheus from the Matrix - and maybe they won't bother you as much.
posted by MediaMer at 8:18 PM on September 4, 2009

Sorry - my link didn't work in the post above...:
posted by MediaMer at 8:20 PM on September 4, 2009

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