If you’re an Accessible Psychology regular it will come as no surprise to you that I am familiar with the works of Jon Kabat-Zinn – the pioneer of mindfulness and the man responsible for bringing it into the mainstream medical arena.
Mindfulness is a form of meditation which has gained great medical recognition and is designed to cultivate an experience of living in the moment. However, to stop there would be to sell mindfulness short. It serves to both heighten our perceptions and teach us to appreciate and see our environment anew. Jon Kabat-Zinn describes mindfulness as ‘The awareness that emerges when we learn to pay attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgementally to things as they are.’
Mindfulness can teach us to access states of openness, acceptance and immersion which we seldom find in our everyday lives. The sort of states one might experience on holiday. Think of mindfulness as a form of mental vacation, a way to connect with non-judgemental principles and a complete acceptance of what is, whatever that may be.
As soon as I learned that Jon had a new mindfulness series CD out I just had to get it, and, after going through the meditations (all four CD’s of them) I simply had to share my experience with you.
One of the things I like so much about Jon Kabat-Zinns approach is that he so eloquently addresses and pre-empts our concerns, distractions and barriers whilst meditating, as if psychically tuning into our thoughts. What is so comforting however is that he reminds us of what to focus on in a totally non-judgemental and accepting way and in the process allows us to realise that difficulties are in fact natural and perhaps even part of the process towards our waking up to the present moment.
Below I have reviewed each of the CD’s in Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Guided Mindfulness Meditation Series 3:-
CD 1: Breathscape
The vivid imagery provided by Jon evoked relaxation and a sense of serenity. Statements like “Riding the waves of your breathing” and “No agenda other than to be fully alive” guided me into a state of unity with the present moment and a deep sense of affinity for it. He non-judgementally addressed wondering thoughts and gently guided me in an incredibly effective way back to the meditation. The silence at the end was particularly apt, giving me the opportunity to focus on my posture and my breath. At the end of the track I felt uplifted, positive and highly contented with things just as they were, in that moment.
CD 1: Bodyscape
I started this meditation when my body was aching and was sceptical how well it would go as a result. I followed the instructions, even ones such as to be “fully in touch with body as a whole and the universe of sensations within it” and I found that, counter-intuitively, my aches actually bothered me less! By paying attention to them and accepting them as they were without fighting against them (as I would usually do) the impact they had was actually reduced. At the end of the recording I felt less in distress and noticeably calmer.
CD 2: Soundscape
At first when I paid attention to the soundscape I found I was confronted by a plethora of unpleasant sounds and, if I’m honest, found them quite annoying. I wanted birdsong, the wind whistling through the trees, pleasant sounds. Jon’s uncanny ability to address listeners difficulties with non-judgemental guidance once again began with almost perfect timing; Jon addressed our tendency to judge the sounds we hear and suggested being open to sounds just as they are. I decided to give it a try and started to refocus on accepting the sounds and taking deeper breaths. As soon as I let go of judging the sounds I came to simply observing them as they came and went. I felt more in tune with my surroundings and this particular meditation served as an excellent reminder of bringing mindfulness into daily living. The whole exercise was inspirational.
CD 2: Mindscape
This exercise encouraged listeners to view thoughts as mental events, hence lessening their emotional pull and disengaging with anything but the present moment. This was probably one of the more challenging exercises for me by far as I often get engrossed in thoughts. However the guidance was specific and detailed and took me through the process step by step. Although I found it challenging I think this would be one of most valuable meditations to master as when I get stuck in negative patterns of thought or even have a racing mind this exercise would help to detach myself from the content of my thoughts and allow me to have a more objective and calm mindset.
CD 2: Dying Before You Die
This was one of my favourite meditations on series 3. The entire meditation has a other worldly quality which transported me into a state of harmony and calm euphoria. The meditation can be summed up by when Jon says “as you breath out you are dying to the past and future and waking to the present moment”. The silent pauses where also perfectly timed to enhance practise of Jon’s skilled guidance.
CD 3: Nowscape
This exercise brought breathscape, bodyscape, soundscape and mindscape practises together perfectly. It required a more intense focus on my part to bring all these elements together in one sitting but Jon guided me through it effortlessly.
CD 3: Walking Meditation
I found the walking meditation not quite to my taste, mainly because I found it hard to walk so slowly and with such intention. This is definitely a meditation I would like to practise more though as I’m sure the slow deliberate steps Jon encourages us to take would be beneficial to my well being.
CD 4: Heartscape
This meditation began by evoking feelings of love towards yourself from another then encouraged you to direct those feelings towards yourself in the form of self love. After that I was directed to feel my love for my closest friends and family, then for neutral people, then for difficult people and then, ultimately, for the world. Throughout the exercise I felt intense feelings of love and compassion, first experienced for myself and then for others. By the end of the recording I was uplifted and genuinely happy.
CD 4: Lifescape
This was a beautiful meditation which eloquently described how to introduce mindfulness into your day to day living.
For anyone wishing to learn mindfulness from the very best I would recommend this CD. Having tried Jon’s other series CD’s I would say series 3 is by far the best for beginners. The shorter meditations featured, combined with the fact there are such a wide range of meditations, means that it provides an excellent overview for the novice.
This being said, the very nature of Jon Kabat-Zinn’s often in depth recordings are presented in such a way that whenever I practise an exercise – no matter how many times I have encountered it – I seem to gleam something new from his teachings every time. There are so many layers to his work that even an experienced meditator could take value from it, so I would eagerly recommend series 3 to anyone seeking a new addition to their mindfulness repertoire.
Wishing you all a wonderful moment, just as it is, right now,