Steps to Become More Mindful and Reduce Stress

Steps to Become More Mindful and Reduce Stress

mindfulness

These days, there are literally thousands of different mental, emotional, and spiritual methods aimed at reducing a person’s stress levels to make them a healthier and happier person. While each individual is unlike any other, certain techniques seem to work better. As one of the most successful ways to eliminate stress and become a more well-rounded person, mindfulness meditation has become a popular option by people from all over the world.

At this point, you’ve probably already heard about the efficacy of mindfulness. The rumors are founded on truth. In fact, there is no a mountain of evidence supporting the mental, emotional, and physical benefits of such practices. So, what is this method all about and how can it help you?

What Is Mindfulness?

Being in the present and bringing the practice to your everyday life is not as difficult as it may sound. Simply put, we’re talking about a change in your state of consciousness – the position of being fully aware of yourself and your surroundings. Modern dictionaries, such as the one from Psychology Today, define it in the following way:

{NOUN} – “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations…”

This state of being is often used as a therapeutic technique for trauma sufferers, and is commonly used by individuals who are not experiencing trauma as a means to deal with everyday stress.

How Does This Practice Help Reduce Stress?

Recent research has done a lot to uncover the benefits of mindfulness and its various techniques. According to a study performed at both the University of Oxford and the University of Massachusetts Medical School, this technique does more than simply reduce stress – it can actually transform a person’s perspective on the world around them. By practicing a tailored regimen, individuals were able to slowly build character on a foundation of internal strength that prevented future stressors to have such a negative effect.

What Does Mindfulness Look Like?

With so much evidence supporting the mental and emotional health benefits of this meditation techinque, putting it into practice as soon as possible is imperative. To get started, understanding what this mentality looks like in action is beyond vital. Here are some easily recognizable examples of mindfulness in effect:

  • You stop reacting immediately to certain situations, especially those that trigger your emotions.
  • You experience a moment of pause to consider the optional outcomes before you say or do anything.
  • You feel more relaxed and therefore less driven to get things done quickly and efficiently regardless of your current state.
  • You become aware of your internal monologue, allowing you to step away from any given situation to determine your true position before reacting.
  • Your body’s sensations become more recognizable, giving you early insights into undiscovered health problems.
  • You start to recognize the emotions of others more quickly and accurately.
  • Your ability to care and have compassion for others seems to increase, making it possible for you to sympathize with others before becoming stressed about the situation.
  • You begin to see your stress for what it is – a temporary problem that simply requires a well-thought-out solution.

Interestingly, being in this state helps to reduce brain activity rather than increase it. In short, it improves the efficiency of your mental focus, which in turn improves your ability to avoid stressful situations in the first place. With this new ability to streamline your thoughts and emotions, it’s possible to experience an increased sense of well-being, happiness, and relaxation.

Quick Steps to Put it All Together

There are a lot of ways to control your thoughts, emotions, and actions. However, some work better than others. The following is a 10-step meditation process that’s been found to be the most effective:

  1. START thinking about a workable situation in your life that’s causing you stress.
  2. Do not try to tackle a seemingly impossible problem. That will work itself out as you move through the steps of becoming a more conscious individual.
  3. TRY to imagine all the details of the situation that are making you feel uncomfortable.
  4. If it helps, try to picture yourself as if you’re currently in the middle of the situation instead of being able to meditate on it.
  5. SEE if you can recognize any sensations in your body and note where they are and how they feel.
  6. Check for an elevated heart rate, sweating, nausea or nervous stomach, or muscle tightness in your back or face.
  7. LISTEN to your body and mind, feeling each fully and taking note of any emotions that you’re experiencing.
  8. Become aware of the location your emotion is originating to recognize patterns in the future.
  9. BRING your mindful perspective to the emotion or stressor.
  10. Practice acceptance, curiosity, and warmth.
  11. PLACE your hand on the location of the emotion you’re experiencing (often referred to as “self-soothing”).
  12. Show care and concern for yourself at this time.
  13. ACCEPT the sensation for what it is.
  14. Try to feel it pulsate together with your breathing pattern.
  15. PROMOTE an awareness in the present moment and the positive aspects of it.
  16. Reduce the amount of attention being paid to the painful or negative emotions associated with your stress.
  17. STRUCTURE a new perspective which allows you to define your personal perimeter more clearly.
  18. Be careful not to compromise your moral foundations to accommodate the situation.
  19. END the meditation to face the world with a greater sense of awareness.

mindfulness

 

Nalanda in the West

Nalanda Traditions Available to Western Students

Nalanda traditions are now being taught to Western students. However, this field of Buddhist study is not without its challenges. Today, we’re going to share information about innovations in the traditional methods which are meant to offer Western students education that they are able to process effectively. Reflecting on the differences between traditional Asian cultures and the West is important and meaningful.

 

A New Master’s Program is Available

 

An FPMT Master’s Program known as Dharma Studies in the West is now being taught.

 

Since Buddha’s time, twenty-five hundred years ago, the traditional teachings of Buddhism have been shared with students via a lineage which is uninterrupted. This teaching reached Tibet and it was popular there for twelve hundred years. Lately, as Buddhism became more interesting to people in the West, more and more Western students want to gain deeper understanding of this faith and its traditions from the distant past.

 

The new master’s program is one of the most ambitious examples of learning programs which are designed to help Western students understand the principles of Buddhism. This program is centered on teaching ordained students from the West and lay students. It shows them the value of the great texts, as well as how to practice traditions which are Tibetan Buddhist. The program requires 6 to 7 years of study, as well as an additional “retreat” year for meditation.

 

The curriculum for this master’s program is a lot like the Geshe programs which are delivered within the bigger Gelug Tibetan monasteries. However, the new program has a shorter time frame. To contrast, a Geshe program usually takes a decade and a half (or even two decades) to complete! As you can see, a lot of condensing of material needed to be done in order to teach students in just six to seven years. However, most students who take the new master’s program have a lot of knowledge already.

 

The biggest issue with creating this study program was how to transmit the traditional teachings of Buddhism, while adding Western context. Studies needed to be relevant to Western culture.

 

What Is Nalanda Tradition?

 

This Buddhist tradition is about balancing reasoning and faith. It’s focused on emphasizing the direct link between the greatest scholars of an ancient Indian Buddhist university (Nalanda University) with the tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. This ancient school was a place where so many great minds of Buddhism learned and practiced. The tradition is about devotion and faith, as well as intensive critical inquiry.

 

Changes to traditional teaching methods for Nalanda Tradition were needed in order to create the Dharma Studies in the West master’s program.

 

With traditional teaching, such as teaching to Tibetans, the emphasis is on developing academic understanding which leads to spiritual development. Mostly, monks study in this manner, which involves years of debate, study and memorizing.

 

The new Dharma Studies in the West program features instruction about a trio of the five great texts, in addition to tantra “grounds and paths” and the Tantra, Guhyasamaja. As well, study of mind and awareness. reviews of key topics and study of philosophical tenets are in the curriculum. Students take examinations regularly and they get tested on all subjects at the close of the program. If they pass, they get completion certificates. Then, they embark on one-year phases of retreat.

 

This program isn’t about creating Western geshes. It’s about giving students comprehensive educations.

 

Western Students – A Different Approach

 

Western students have been raised in a different culture. They tend to reject dogmatic thinking and religious authorities which have absolutist mindsets. Therefore, the new program is innovative, as it takes Western culture into account and offers learning that is based on the Western tendency to question everything.

 

Some people may view the new learning program as an erosion and dilution of Tibetan Buddhist traditions. Others  – including our Nalanda Buddhist Group in CT – realize that the new degree program is evolution at its finest.