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February 19, 2010 5:59 AM   Subscribe

I need mindfulness training, but I really don’t want to find my chi.

Is there any sort of podcast out there that offers help on mindfulness (active listening, patience, general not being an asshole-yness) but keeps the spiritual babble to a minimum? I had to take one movement class in college and I chose Alexander Technique and was actually able to absorb the helpful content because the instructor and instructions were clear and practical. I need help on being more mindful, but am not interested in chakras or chi. (Partially because those concepts don’t resonate and partially because I find that description of what I need to be doing obtuse and unhelpful.)

This old askMe had some great book suggestions if anyone knows if those translate well to audiobook, I'd appreciate that input as well.
posted by edbles to Human Relations (19 answers total) 65 users marked this as a favorite
This isn't quite what you're asking, but many of the same lessons are also found in Zen/Chan Buddhism and the "spiritual babble" that you will find there may be less distasteful to you. Really though, I suggest just getting over your concerns about the spiritual side of it. These are traditions that have come down for centuries or millennia steeped in spirituality and, in my experience, whenever someone attempts to surgically isolate just the non-spiritual aspects of them, the scalpel work is messy and obvious.

What harm is there in thinking as though you have a chi and chakras, just while meditating? Openmindedness is a virtue, and no one is asking you to convert.
posted by 256 at 6:10 AM on February 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I think you might like these. Cygnet tells me that the talks given by Narayan Liebenson Grady and Yanai Postelnik particularly fit what you describe.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 6:10 AM on February 19, 2010

Response by poster: 256: It's less being afraid of conversion and more that the obtuse hyper specialized terminology makes me shut down. I have the same problem with people who try to teach art or design classes and tell you to "be more expressive" instead of helping you find which blue blends best with which yellow to pull the colors more aquamarine instead of muddy swamp green. But your point is still helpful. These people have constructed a model and clearly it's been working for millennial so maybe I should shut up and listen.

Salvor Hardin:Badass.
posted by edbles at 6:40 AM on February 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I disagree with 256. There is a huge movement in the psychology/psychotherapy world toward mindfulness-based practices, and spirituality does not have to be a part of it, and there's no reason to force anyone to incorporate spirituality in mindfulness, particularly if it's not something especially useful to that person.

All of these links are university counseling center resources; some have more that you will probably find useful than others, but you can browse for yourself.
UC Davis (scroll down to the Mindfulness & Relaxation Podcast)
UW Madison
Duke (text description/info on mindfulness meditation)
U of Vermont
North Dakota State

Some more names and search terms to look into for mindfulness resources that are not about spiritual practice so much as stress reduction/emotional health: Jon Kabat-Zinn (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, and Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy), Daniel Siegel, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (huge mindfulness component as the first part of the model), Acceptance and Commitment therapy.

There is a lot of empirical support for mindfulness techniques in cognitive behavioral therapy, supporting its role in improving depression, chronic pain, stress/anxiety, and for dealing with strong/overwhelming emotions.
posted by so_gracefully at 6:43 AM on February 19, 2010 [6 favorites]

Best answer: As mentioned in the thread Salvor pointed to - You might want to check out the work on John Kabat-Zinn. He started a program called "Mindfulness-based stress reduction" (MBSR) at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. His work has only really tiny traces of the sort of spiritual babble I think you're afraid of. The MBSR material is taught all over by different people and organizations- maybe one of those orgs has a podcast

A quick google search on "MBSR mindfulness podcast" didn't yield much at first, but maybe you can use that as a starting point. Zinn does have at least one audiobook, and you can find a few guided meditations online.
posted by ManInSuit at 6:47 AM on February 19, 2010

Best answer: Previous, similar-ish thread, just ignore the ADD stuff if it does not apply.
posted by desjardins at 7:22 AM on February 19, 2010

Poking my head in to recommend Zen. Also, be mindful (see what I did there?) of the fact that, like 256 says, the "spiritual babble" that you find distasteful can be important to the technique. In any case, Thich Nhat Hanh is one of my personal favorites.

Crash course in mindfulness? It doesn't have to be terribly hard. In fact, I'd argue that stressing like this over which class is right for you is incredibly counter-intuitive. Focus on your breathing.
posted by InsanePenguin at 8:11 AM on February 19, 2010

At the risk of being a dick: active listening, patience, general not being an asshole-yness

Maybe you should just take a class and go with the flow. Might learn something useful that you didn't expect. Mindfulness has been threaded with other philosophies for thousands of years. Might be something to that?
posted by InsanePenguin at 8:25 AM on February 19, 2010

Best answer: Meditation podcasts by Gil Fronsdal (based on Vipassana but not religious). The lecturing is quite good and low on bullshit, but he's talking in front of an audience so you'll get 10 minutes of silence when he tells them to practice meditating.

I've looked for non-religious information on meditation myself, but as far as I can tell, people who offer instruction on meditation come in two kinds: (1) crazy mystics who believe in chakras, chi, or worse, and (2) believers in Theravada Buddhism or Zen. People who claim to be non-religious are often even worse than religious, so the second category is preferable (and Zen in particular is about as non-religious as religion can get).
posted by k. at 8:46 AM on February 19, 2010

Possibly slightly off the mark, but have you looked at Havi Brooks' calming techniques audio/etc? (see here)
posted by at 9:45 AM on February 19, 2010

Best answer: Try some Alan Watts lectures. He keeps the tone of awe, but speaks very practically. Plus, he's very relaxing to listen to.
posted by cmoj at 10:04 AM on February 19, 2010

Best answer: Gil Fronsdal and Tara Brach are my favorite meditation-related podcasters (really speakers who are recorded and podcasted) that stay relatively clear of the superstitious stuff. Michael McAlister is great at secularizing some of the superstitious stuff, but sometimes seems to me to be too credulous and forgiving of the nonsense out there.

Jon-Kabat Zinn has great secular mindfulness meditation CDs, although no podcast that I know of.
posted by callmejay at 10:28 AM on February 19, 2010

Try The Open Focus Brain

It should come with a CD.
posted by Not Supplied at 3:47 PM on February 19, 2010

not interested in chakras or chi.

FYI, buddhism does not believe in either, although of course individual buddhists might.
posted by desjardins at 4:02 PM on February 19, 2010

Best answer: I will second the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction angle. I took a MBSR course last fall in New York City and found it to be very helpful, with very few spiritual elements. The only Buddhist term we used was "Metta" for loving-kindness meditation (which is amazing btw.) A course will cost something, but it might be helpful to have the structure and accountability of a course, and a group of fellow students to practice with, to keep yourself motivated in your meditation. Better yet, you might find a free meditative group. I found as a beginner, it was helpful to have other people to discuss my experiences and struggles with throughout the process of learning.
posted by amileighs at 4:52 PM on February 19, 2010

Just replace the idea that it's spiritual with the idea that it's philosophy and you'll be good to go.
posted by marimeko at 5:25 PM on February 19, 2010

Best answer: You might check out the dharma talks from the NYC Dharma Punx group. They are fairly down-to-earth.
posted by unknowncommand at 5:37 PM on February 19, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for all the suggestions. For anyone reading this later, Gil Fronsdal seems to be the spaghetti string that stuck to the wall. His Introduction to Meditation talks are real nice, because they record the questions people in the room have at the end.
posted by edbles at 7:52 AM on February 25, 2010

Thank you very much for asking this question; I've tried asking it of friends and acquaintances in the past and was told I was being silly. Thumbs up to several of the recommendations here, they're awesome, and don't seem to involve new age crap that's been injected on top of Buddhism (mostly in the recent past!)
posted by talldean at 6:12 AM on March 7, 2010

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