Introduction to Mindfulness with Meditation Doctor Andy Puddicombe

Puddicombe Week 24

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I had a meditation teacher once who always used to say, “We’re all essentially quite neurotic. Enlightenment is simply a reflection of how well we know that neurosis.” It’s an interesting idea and one that I’m frequently reminded of. I sometimes wish that people could see what goes on in the clinic, to be reassured that far from being completely crazy, they are actually surprisingly normal. I think that sometimes there can be a temptation to assume that we are the only one feeling a certain way. It can be hard to believe that other people would indulge or suppress thoughts and feelings in the same way as us. After all, the patterns in our mind feel so unique and personal. We tend to live so internally (in our own heads) that we forget that very often other people are experiencing exactly the same thing.

Sometimes when I point this out to people they say “Yeah, but mine is especially bad...you will never have met anyone with anxiety/depression/anger/addiction/insomnia as bad as me!” And of course it’s true to say that we’re all on a sliding scale with these emotions. But it’s extremely rare that I meet someone who is truly off the scale altogether. And this is important, because in acknowledging that we all struggle with thoughts and emotions in a very similar way, we start to feel a little less isolated. At the same time, we also start to develop a greater sense of empathy.

It’s the nature of the mind to be a little crazy sometimes...or even all of the time! But remember, meditation is not about trying to dial back the craziness. It’s about understanding the craziness—knowing it, watching it, having some perspective around it so that you can relate to it in a way that feels comfortable. Of course, when you learn to do this, some of that craziness may start to settle down a little and perhaps even disappear altogether. But that part of the process is really out of our control, so it’s probably not worth spending too much time dreaming about it.

So next time you feel as though you might be losing your mind, try taking a closer look by stepping back (contradiction in terms intended) and watching the madness of the mind with a bit more perspective. Remind yourself that if you’re experiencing it, then someone else is also be experiencing it—of that you can be certain. I think there’s something very reassuring in that. It helps us to take things a little less seriously, perhaps to even laugh at our own madness once in a while.

 

If you’d like to share your own thoughts with me via Twitter, then please feel free to follow @andy_headspace. 

Andy Puddicombe is a registered clinical mindfulness consultant and a former Buddhist monk. He is the author of Get Some Headspace and is the founder of Headspace, a project that aims to make meditation accessible and easy-to-learn.  To check out Headspace and try our free 10 day trial (Tricycle readers get 25% off a yearly subscription), you can click here.

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Andy Puddicombe's picture

Hi,

Thanks for the kind words about the animation...I'll be sure to pass them on to the creative team here at Headspace who never cease to amaze me with what they can do with a simple voice recording!

And I think it's fantastic that you are looking for ways to integrate your practice into everyday life. There is no question that having a regular, stable, meditation practice is important in training the mind, but equally vital is the willingness to bring that new-found sense of awareness, calm and clarity to everyday life. So yes, try it on the metro, on the bus, walking down the street, whilst having lunch, listening to a friend, talking to the children, or whatever other situation presents itself in life.

Truly, we have the opportunity to apply awareness to each and every moment, no matter where we are or what we 're doing.

Wishing you well in your ever widening practice, Andy

deepurple's picture

Signed up for full HeadSpace. I'm off!

Andy Puddicombe's picture

Awesome - let us know how you get on with it and I hope you enjoy the journey!

1BiblioTech's picture

After a very personally hectic past few months, I am looking Thanks for the opportunity to explore another approach to meditation. As both an adult with ADHD and a teacher of students with learning differences who it trying to bring midnfulness techniques into my school, I understand how much meditation has to offer, and I appreciate the secular approach. While I personally embrace Buddhism, it is often difficult to bring people to meditation if they find it religiously challenging.I am looking forward to giving Headspace its trial and see if it can help me get my practice back on track The short and frequent approach is a good one for those of use who are focus challenged!

poetess1966's picture

As a parent of a child with autism and OCD and a Buddhist, I know how much meditation can help LD kids. There is a meditation which I used with my son to help him calm down and it worked for him. It's a form of pebble meditation. He keeps a pebble in his pocket and when he feels like he's starting to lose focus or get too emotional, he holds the pebble in his hand inside his pocket. He focuses on the feeling of the pebble in his hand and breathes in and out to a ten count. The thought to accompany each breath is: One pebble (in breath) one hand (out breath), two pebbles-two hands, and so on. He could do the meditation without anyone else knowing he was doing it. It got him through high school. Maybe it will help some of your kids too. And it can be presented to parents as a method of self-calming instead of a religious practice.

Andy Puddicombe's picture

Hi there, and thanks for checking out the Headspace site and techniques. I very much hope it's helpful, both personally and professionally, and benefits both you and your students alike.

We are doing a lot of work here in the UK with charities who provide education for children and teenagers with learning disabilities, and I would love to hear how you get on with it all.

Wishing you all the very best in the meantime, Andy

sharmila2's picture

Hi Andy
I've been practising in the VIpassana method that emphasises the stages of insight, which i assume you are familiar with since you had some training with Burmese teachers. I did find several drawbacks to this approach, mainly that it led to a striving for further progress, especially since i tend to be very goal oriented anyway. My current practice is mroe relaxed and "big sky", as you describe. At any rate, I noticed strong physical manifestations at different stages (I never "completed the cycle" but came to the equanimity stage) , and even though I am now off retreat and practising about an hour a day of sitting meditation, I can detect the "signs" of these different stages quite easily, and they occur daily - itching and pricking of the skin, crawling sensations, jaw tightness, sore throat, etc - mostly unpleasant, but mild enough they are easy to live with since I'm used to their patterns. Any suggestions?

Andy Puddicombe's picture

Hi Sharmila,

Thanks for your post. And yeah, I can very much relate to the drawbacks you describe with that particular approach. It seems to work brilliantly for some people and is more problematic for others. With a few people I would go as far to say that such an approach can even be counter productive. Of course, this can be for all kinds of reasons, but very often it is because the practice becomes a little 'self-focused' and 'goal orientated'.

I'm not sure how 'in to' Tibetan Buddhism you are, but I'm reminded of a quote from the great yogi, Jetsun Milarepa, who said "Practicing the dharma without bodi-mind is the self-delusion of a fool; it but intensifies desire and greed". Well, I was certainly one such fool when I was first introduced to that approach and it took quite a radical change in approach to let go of that old goal orientated attitude. Thankfully it sounds as though you are a much faster learner than me!

In answer to your question, there are advantages and disadvantages to a public forum and the advice for one person is not necessarily helpful to another. That said, there are three generic approaches you might like to consider.

1) If you are already resting in awareness, without a particular object of focus, and the sensations are viewed as passing phenomena, without attachment or aversion, then quite obviously, there is no need to worry or do anything further.

2) If the sensations are causing you distraction in your practice and leading to further mind wandering, then you might like to spend some time examining the nature of the different sensations. The Four Foundations of Mindfulness can be particularly helpful in this process.

3) My preference however, would be training in Tonglen. This is because no matter how persistent or challenging the sensations become, they only serve to help us uncover our innate compassion, empathy and understanding towards others. Personally I think this is one of the most transformative meditation techniques we can practice.

Wishing you well in your practice Sharmila, Andy

sharmila2's picture

Thanks Andy for your thorough & considerate reply. I have a passing familiarity with tonglen from reading the work of Pema Chodron & other Tibetan teachers; I will certainly try it and try to find a retreat in that tradition at some point.
Metta & best wishes
Sharmila