A Zen’s-Eye View: Mindfulness can be applied in all aspects of our lives

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The Advance recently published my final column about the 59 Lojong slogans that were developed in Indonesia over 1,200 years ago. Before I move on to my next project I want to thank everyone who expressed an appreciation for those thousand-year-old teachings. Your comments about how they have clarified issues in your spiritual lives tell me that the wisdom of the Lojong slogans has passed the test of time. Such is the way of deep truth.

I now want to turn my attention to a form of practice that is exploding in the medical, education and counselling fields: mindfulness. I will be writing a series of 12 columns about the ways that mindfulness training is being used as a therapeutic and educational tool in many areas of modern life. Even though mindfulness practice has been around since the historical Buddha gave his mindfulness-of-breath sermon 2,500 years ago, it is only in the last 15 years that the deep value of mindfulness has penetrated contemporary medical, psychological and educational services. “Mindfulness” has become a buzzword of pop culture. These days everybody is talking about “being in the now”, the state of mind that is the result of persistent and consistent meditation and mindfulness training.

My next five columns will explore mindful eating, the application of mindfulness to our relationship with food. In our busy lives, many of us have lost our connection with the eating process. We eat mindlessly, letting our attention rest on a newspaper, a book, a computer or the television while we, without awareness of “the now”, shovel food into our mouths. Mindful eating practices offer a variety of techniques that help us to reconnect with the pure pleasure of eating nourishing food in appropriate amounts. I’ll be exploring some of those techniques.

Then I will move on to mindfulness as a method of anxiety, stress and chronic pain management. I have talked with so many people who are suffering from anxiety, stress and chronic pain. Until 15 years ago when Jon Kabat-Zinn began to apply the ancient teachings of mindfulness to health problems at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, the most common remedy for anxiety, stress and chronic pain was drugs. Since then, the mindfulness-based stress groups that Kabat-Zinn developed have sprung up all over the western world, and have helped innumerable people with a variety of physical and mental health issues. The second half of this series will focus on the application of the ancient practice of mindfulness to anxiety, stress and chronic pain management.

It is my sincere wish that you, the readers, benefit from my next series of columns as much as you tell me that you have benefited from the last one. In each of the next 11 columns I will continue to suggest a practice that is related to the topic at hand. I’d be interested in hearing about the effects that any one of my suggestions has on your relationship with eating and/or anxiety, stress and chronic pain.

Kuya Minogue is the resident teacher at Creston’s ZenWords Zen Centre. For more information, she can be reached at 250-428-3390 or zenwords@telus.net.

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