Of all the tools a human can use to create a satisfying life — wealth, education, social status, perseverance, civility — whatever it may be, there is one overarching truth in the end: The very best tool we have at our disposal is our mind.
We spend countless hours taking care of our bodies; time on end devoted to our financial security; long hours in the gym and eons of homework and study. And yet, how much time do we devote to preparing our greatest tool for the work at hand, for our health, our prosperity and indeed, our peace of mind?
“In as little as one session, a person can learn tools that can provide a path to profound changes that can deepen with each meditation,” said Johnathan Woodside, executive director and founder of Omaha’s Mindfulness Outreach Initiative. “We see addicts begin to gain the tools to manage their lives again. People in chronic pain can be with it without suffering.”And that’s just the beginning of what a meditation practice like the type of mindfulness Woodside and his fellow instructors teach can give to their students.
“Research has shown that in as little as 8 minutes of the meditation there are physiological changes in the body that can be tracked.”
Science says so. Nearly fifty years ago, Harvard physician Herbert Benson described it as the “Relaxation Response.” Markers in the body begin to show up during meditative practices. Blood pressure lowers, heart rate relaxes, healthful hormones and chemicals are released in the body. Stress hormones subside. All that can lead to even deeper positive changes. Beach Boy Mike Love told me that he feels meditation helps him think more clearly and find everyday solutions more easily.
MUM’s the word. Love is one of millions around the world who practices Transcendental Meditation. That form of meditation is the most researched method of all, probably because there is actually a university in Fairfield, Iowa founded on the premises of the practice that was brought to the West by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the 1950s and taught to everyone from the Beatles and Donovan to Katy Perry and Jerry Seinfeld. Though based on the teachings of ancient India wise men, known as rishis, Transcendental Meditation isn’t based on any religion.
Woodside and his organization in Omaha teach a different form of meditation that was derived from a different culture.
“Insight Meditation, what we teach at the Mindfulness Outreach Initiative, MOI, is an outgrowth of a form of Theravada Buddhism. There are many other groups in the United States that teach Insight Meditation of that type but we are one that teaches it in a secular manner. It’s not in any way a religion or religious requirement,” Woodside said.
“Mindfulness is a characteristic of Insight Meditation, a part of awareness. Being mindful, meeting experience as it is. In IM one cultivates a mind that is unattached. Mindfulness uses anything that comes to mind. Anything can be an object of meditation. Connect to the experience as it is then see that it changes,” Woodside said.
On a mission. Founded in the midsummer of 2012, the Mindfulness Outreach Initiative is a non-profit with the goal of making mindfulness meditation instruction available to everyone. To that end, MOI makes classes affordable and easy to attend. They also work with a number of corporations, hospitals and schools in the Omaha community. An example of their projects and outreach is the upcoming Omaha Meditates 2018 project (OmahaMeditates.org). Talk about making it easy to start? It’s an invitation for absolutely anyone to take but one minute to sit in meditation. And it doesn’t matter what kind of meditation you do or what you call it. The main website is mindfulnessoutreachinitiative.org.
Don’t mind if I do. Amy McCae of Creative Wellness Omaha is a life coach and also teaches Mindfulness. She is not affiliated with MOI and like many in Omaha, she offers private and corporate trainings.
“There are many slight differences in the approach to mindfulness and not all definitions are the same,” she told me. “They all resolve at the idea of paying attention to the present moment without judgment and even carrying that approach over into each moment of the day. Even if it means just taking a brief moment to take a breath, step back from the world.”
McCae has experienced different modes of meditation beginning with the Silva Technique over 12 years ago.
“I find answers through my mind and with my three levels of Silva Training I find it tremendously rewarding. I also studied Shamanism and learned how to ‘journey’ which is basically meditating and intending to go to another dimension or space to get answers. It’s not uncommon to experience [forms of enlightenment] when I am just in a quiet space.”
McCae recognizes that though the term “mindfulness” may seem to be trendy right now, it’s a valuable way to learn how to exercise that most powerful tool we have for change.
“I tend to refer to meditation as being either ‘open monitored’ or ‘focused attention.’ Each of these has countless options for practice. The important thing is ‘Just do it’,” she added.
Woodside, who is preparing to embark on a 100-day silent meditation retreat, echoes that sentiment and reminds us all to at least consider a one-minute version coming up in January. Don’t leave this tool in the shed
Heartland Healing is a metaphysically based polemic describing alternatives to conventional methods of healing the body, mind and planet. It is provided as information and entertainment, certainly not medical advice. Important to remember and pass on to others: for a weekly dose of Heartland Healing, visit HeartlandHealing.com. and like us on Facebook.