Behind the dramas and conflicts of life, there exists a quiet inner place where mindfulness and meditation can help us reside. The sanity and brilliance of this combination can awaken inner strength, foster kindness and fearlessness, and invite radical change. Discover how to transform your life from the inside out with the profound benefits of a calm and stress-free mind.
The Unexpected Power of Mindfulness and Meditation features personal insights from visionary leaders — Matthew Fox, Jon Kabat-Zinn, and Marianne Williamson among them — who discuss their methods of maintaining mental health and happiness.
“Treat this book as you would a cookery book. You wouldn't just read recipes; you'd try them out. Like cookery, meditation only makes sense if you experience it.” — His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Nobel Peace Prize laureate
"Ed and Deb remind us all just how important it is to look after the health and happiness of the mind. With warmth and humor, they show us how to integrate the timeless qualities of awareness and compassion into everyday life." — Andy Puddicombe, founder of HEADSPACE
“Mindfulness is the awareness that arises when we pay attention to the present moment. It accesses us to core aspects of our mind that our very sanity depends on, as does our capacity to live wholeheartedly in this crazy world.” — Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness teacher
“I can be as nuts as the next person, living in a world like we live in with the craziness and chaos. It takes work to retain our sanity in the midst of all that, and to me meditation is the most powerful tool for doing so.” — Marianne Williamson, New York Times bestselling author of A Return to Love
“Ed and Deb Shapiro are two warm, caring, and capable individuals. Their work makes our planet a safer and more loving place to live.” — Bernie Siegel, M.D., bestselling author of Love, Medicine and Miracles
“If there is one book you read about meditation, this should be the one. Hear about some of the cool people who do it, why you should do it, and how.” — Sharon Gannon, Jivamukti Yoga
“What an accomplishment! Ed and Deb's profoundly unique book offers a one-stop shop for those engaged in mindfulness and meditation. The direct transmission contained in this book can take us one step further. We find it especially useful to help stabilize spiritual activism in these challenging times and we'll refer it widely.” — John Steiner and Margo King, transpartisan activists
“I hope that your work is reaching many. It deserves it and so do they.” — Stephen Levine, international bestselling author
“Acceptance of what is, that is meditation. This book will help you make friends with your mind. Ed and Deb are spreading love in the world; be a part of it!” — Parmita Pushman, White Swan Records
“The pausing has been profound. It has invited me to arrive in the here and now with my child clients, and to accept whatever happens without judging.” — Megan Cronin Larson, play therapist
“The wonderful Shapiros are a conduit of joy and spiritual energy that heals hearts on their subtle level.” — Dr. Lex Hixon, author of Coming Home
“Ed and Deb make a connection to their friends' spirit. They then bring their spiritual energy all over the world for world peace.” — Kitaro, Golden Globe Award– and Grammy Award–winning musician
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
"It's kinda like when you have to shut your computer down when it goes crazy. Then you turn it on, and it's all okay again. That's what meditation is to me." — Ellen DeGeneres
They once appeared mysterious and beyond our comprehension, but mindfulness and meditation are now showing up everywhere from exercise classes to ads for computers or cars; on the wall behind the counter in our local post office hang fliers announcing meditation and yoga classes next to the overseas postal prices; meditation tips are offered by famous celebrities, such as Lady Gaga, Oprah, or Sting; and no self-respecting bookshop is without a how-to-meditate section. We have taught housewives, athletes, teachers, doctors, and CEOs, in town halls, high school gymnasiums, corporate boardrooms, and on television.
However, this poses a conundrum. If mindfulness and meditation are so available and well known, and if health reports are right in saying we should all be practicing them, why do so many of us ignore this or find excuses not to try? How ironic that the best things for us are those we seem to avoid the most, which is like being affected by poison while resisting the antidote.
"Meditation is calming the reptilian brain," says theologian Matthew Fox. "We have three brains in us: one is a reptilian brain, which is about 420 million years old; our mammal brain is half that old; and our most recent one is the intellectual creative brain.
"We have to calm the reptilian brain so that the mammal brain, which is here to bring kindness, kinship, and bonding, can function. I mean, reptiles do not make good lovers; that is not their thing.
"Meditation allows us to treat the reptilian brain well: 'Nice crocodile, nice crocodile.' When we calm the crocodile, then the mammal brain can assert itself."
There is a basic sanity and brilliance to mindfulness and meditation, from awakening inner strength, kindness, and fearlessness to inviting radical change in every aspect of our lives. Ed discovered meditation when he was part of the love generation living in a commune in New York City, while Deb began to meditate when she was just fifteen and living in London. We both love sharing this great gift of mankind: the art of being aware.
This book not only explains what mindfulness and meditation are and how to practice them, but the unexpected part is you will also be transforming your life from the inside out. Which is really cool.
"Meditation, past calming our nerves, past being good for our blood pressure, past working out our own internal psychological dramas, which it does, past helping us to get along with our kin and our community, is a way of seeing the truth that the only way to ameliorate our suffering is to keep our minds clear," says meditation teacher Sylvia Boorstein.
The equation is simple: As mindfulness and meditation become an intimate part of our lives, so we evolve and change. When we evolve and change, then we become more wakeful, wise, and compassionate. And all we have to do for this chain of events to occur is pay attention.
The opposite of this is discomfort, stress, and suffering, invariably due to the desire for things to be different from how they are, and the longing to escape from what appears as a dissatisfying present. The word "suffering" comes from the Pali word dukkha, which not only means suffering but includes all its varied family relations, such as unease, pain, dissatisfaction, failure, conflict, and hurt. What do you do when one of these comes knocking at your door? How do you maintain your balance?
"I came across a definition of meditation that it comes from the root meaning 'right balance.' My attention is often so fragmented, egocentric, narcissistic, or self-concerned so there isn't a whole lot of balance going on," says inspirational teacher Joan Borysenko. "Right balance is when my mind isn't spinning out endless movies and delusions, or maybe it still is but I'm just not so attached to believing them.
"Meditation is when I can watch stuff go by and the part of me that usually interrupts and says, 'That's a good story,' or 'That son of a bitch,' or 'I'm guilty and awful,' that part sits back and sees it as just another story. This gives me the most delicious sense of spaciousness and ease."
Chaos is natural — the universe is organized chaos — so to find inner peace in the midst of this is vital. Sanity comes when we have an attitude of nongrasping. If we hold on, whether to resentment, irritation, hurt, or even anger, we get caught up in the emotion, easily lose our balance, and suffer more. Meditation is that rare activity that enables us to release the mindlessness that caused the suffering in the first place. Letting go, while not denying our feelings, keeps us connected to awareness.
Visualize the water in a lake. If the water is disturbed we can be distracted by the waves and turmoil, but when the water is calm the still depths can be seen clearly. Beneath our dramas and conflicts there is a sane and quiet place. Mindfulness deepens and expands our awareness, while meditation is an invitation to abide in the stillness. No longer restricted by a narrow worldview, we step into a bigger, more inclusive picture, greater than the story and our part in it.
"Einstein said that we can't solve our problems from the level of thinking that we were at when we created them," says motivational speaker Marianne Williamson. "A different level of thinking doesn't mean just a different emphasis in our thinking, or a more loving kind of thinking. It means what he said, a different level of thinking, and, to me, that is what meditation is. Meditation changes us, as it returns us to our right mind."
M and M: What's the Difference?
"In any one day there are moments where there is nothing going on but we link up thought to thought, without any space, and overlook the spaciousness it's all happening in." — Gangaji
Mindfulness and meditation are often used to mean the same thing, which can be confusing, while not many of us are clear on what "mindfulness meditation" means and how it differs from either of the above. So here's our version:
Mindfulness is awareness. It's noticing and paying attention to thoughts, feelings, behavior, and everything else. Mindfulness can be practiced at any time, wherever we are, whoever we are with, and whatever we are doing, by showing up and being fully engaged in the here and now.
That means being free and not clinging to either the past or future — the ifs and maybes — and free of judgment of right or wrong, such as the "I'm-the-best" or "I'm-no-good" scenarios, so that we can be fully present without distraction. This invites a deep clarity and insight.
"Mindfulness is the awareness that arises when we non-judgmentally pay attention in the present moment. It cultivates access to core aspects of our own minds and bodies that our very sanity depends on," says mindfulness teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn. "Mindfulness, which includes tenderness and kindness, restores dimensions of our being that have never actually been missing, just that we have been missing them, we have been absorbed elsewhere. When your mind clarifies and opens, your heart also clarifies and opens."
Mindfulness also releases "happy" chemicals in the brain so we feel great; it lowers blood pressure, improves digestion, and relaxes tension around pain. It is simple to practice and wonderful in effect. Not a bad deal when all that is needed is to pay attention, something we could all be doing but often forget.
While mindfulness is awareness of "some-thing," such as our thoughts, the weather, or conversations, meditation is awareness of "no-thing," such as the stillness within. In this way mindfulness expands awareness, which enriches meditation, while meditation empowers mindfulness.
No One Way
"I don't make a difference between mindfulness, meditating, or having my life," says meditation teacher Sylvia Boorstein. "I am mindful of the presence or absence of my capacity to care. In this moment, am I bringing attention to whatever I am doing? Is my mind generating good thoughts about other people? Formal periods of meditation simply point me in the direction of how I want to live during the whole day."
There are many forms of meditation: those that focus on the breath, aimed at developing a clear and quiet mind, known as "Clear Mind" meditations; and those that develop altruistic states, such as loving kindness, compassion, or forgiveness, known as "Open Heart" meditations. Mindfulness meditation is a form of Clear Mind meditation, as attention is paid to the natural cadence of the breath and to the rhythm of slow walking. There are also meditations that use the body as a means to deepen awareness, such as yoga, tai chi, or walking, or use sound, as in mantra recitation and chanting.
However, there is no specific or right way to meditate. We are all different, so we each need to find the form that we most respond to. Ultimately, meditation is spontaneous and natural, just as when we go to bed at night and sleep seems to come by itself. The method is simply an aid; it's not the experience itself. A hammer can help build a house but it is not the house.
Nor is meditation practice an end in itself. Rather, it is the means, like a ferryboat that takes us across a river. Most important of all, meditation is to be enjoyed!
"I could never still my mind. And then, as I was approaching my seventieth birthday, I thought the time has come," says actress Jane Fonda. "Part of getting older is that as the externals begin to fray, so you are beckoned inward. As my mind became quieter in meditation, I discovered this place that seemed to be suspended behind my forehead, like a chandelier hanging from the top of my skull. It was a place of wonderful stillness."
Just as there is no particular method that is better than another, so mindfulness and meditation do not belong to any particular religion, philosophy, or thought programming. Every religion has its own form of meditation (as in prayer), as does every philosophy (as in self-reflection).
We were at Barnes & Noble in New York, holding a book signing with some of the authors quoted in this book. After the talk we asked if there were any questions. A lady at the back stood up and asked, "What's the difference between prayer and meditation?" Actress Ellen Burstyn chose to answer, saying, "Prayer is when you talk with God, and meditation is when you listen."
"The essence of prayer is praise and thank you," says Matthew Fox. "The essence of meditation is being still, and out of the stillness there comes a great gratitude. It works the other way too, as prayer encourages stillness and silence. So prayer is like being on a raft on a rushing river, which is meditation in its deepest form."
Being Here Now
Someone once asked Ed if he had ever experienced another dimension. He replied, "Have you ever experienced this one?"
Sitting still can easily appear boring; the mind longs to be entertained! Instead of stillness, we fill ourselves with what-could-have-been, what-might-have-been, or if-only; or with what-could-be, what-will-be, or what-might-be. In fact, past or future can become so engrossing that being in the present moment may seem somewhat lackluster in comparison.
However, the development of present-moment awareness is immensely liberating. There is nothing going on but this very moment; nothing more is required of us than to just be here, now. What a relief! Which doesn't mean we enter into nowhere or nothingness; we don't become disconnected or cast adrift. Rather, we step into sanity and even greater connectedness. The beauty of a regular meditation practice is the constant return to quiet and stillness in a chaotic world of noise and busyness. The term coming home is often used to describe this feeling, as if you are returning to a place you didn't know existed before yet which feels instantly and intimately known and familiar.
"When I was 15 years old, my mother took me on a residential meditation retreat in the English countryside," recalls Deb. "My siblings were all elsewhere and my mother had no intention of leaving me in London on my own. As I already knew some of the people who would be there, and as she was only going for three days, I reluctantly agreed.
"As it was, my mother stayed for three days and I stayed for ten. Sitting in silence felt that I was exactly where I was meant to be. I sat for hours. I didn't want to leave. I didn't want to be parted from this place of belonging. I was home again, even though I never knew I had ever left."
Simply being still, without thought of before or after, encourages a deep sense of completion, that there really is nowhere else we need to go. It's impossible to think of somewhere else as being better — the grass is vividly green exactly where we are.CHAPTER 2
The Power of Relaxation
"For fast-acting relief, try slowing down." — Lily Tomlin
As we have seen, mindfulness and meditation are a vital way to find a deeper sanity and clarity. But even before we start being more aware and mindful, many of us need to simply relax. A mind that is super busy or very tense will not easily be still, and the ensuing struggle can make us soon believe we are no good at meditating.
For instance, does your mother-in-law make you want to bite your nails? Do you feel overwhelmed and unable to cope at work? Do you get irrationally irritated? What do you do when you just want to scream and stop the world? It's certainly going to be hard to sit still or walk mindfully if your mind is so agitated.
Have you noticed the smell of a flower or a bird soaring in the wind? If not, then it's time to stop. As you let go of stress and connect with that quiet space within, then a beauty and joy arises. A stressed mind sees life as a burden or constraint; a relaxed mind sees life as a positive challenge and meets it with dignity and fearlessness.
Deep relaxation opens us to calmer states of mind. When we are at ease with ourselves and our world, meditation follows naturally. We cover this in more depth in Ed's recent book, The Art of Mindful Relaxation, but here are a few major points to remember.
Getting Pulled Too Tight
Imagine you are a caveman out with fellow tribe members on a hunt for food. You have spotted a large bear and adrenaline is beginning to pump through your body in anticipation of the coming hunt. As you close in on the animal your heart rate increases, breaths get shorter, stomach muscles tighten, and concentration deepens. The next few moments are crucial in determining whether you fight to the kill or run to the hills.
Now imagine a day when everything is too much to cope with. Perhaps your child has kept you awake all night with a toothache, you have to be at a business meeting first thing in the morning but you get delayed in congested traffic, the meeting goes on longer than planned, and you have to skip lunch in order to write a report. An angry client then arrives demanding better service, just as your mother calls in need of help with her car.
In the midst of all this you may not have noticed your heart rate increasing, breath getting shorter, and stomach muscles tightening as anxiety levels go up. Adrenaline is pumping through your body, but in this case there's no bear to fight and nowhere to run. As stress increases you become less able to cope, causing you to overreact, lose a clear perspective, get muddled or disorganized, become depressed, or rant and rage for no apparent reason. It's like a steam cooker coming to full pressure. You are the only one who can turn down the heat but often feel powerless to do so.
Yet such states are considered normal! We proclaim, "My mind is driving me crazy!" as if this were some sort of achievement.
"I was the guy who at forty-two years old had all the money I could ever spend," says educator Jeff Salzman. "I had the most beautiful husband imaginable, I was living in a beach house in Florida with my library of books. I really had nothing to worry about and so I ended up with the only thing I had left: the fact that one day I was going to die.
"I started worrying about my heart and went and got a blood pressure machine. Within three or four weeks I was taking my blood pressure forty to fifty times a day. This obsessive-compulsive disorder continued to spiral for the next four years to the point where I was in a low level of panic all the time, with super-high blood pressure and heart arrhythmias. I couldn't sleep; I couldn't concentrate on anything. I was stressed to the max, but it was all entirely my own doing."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Unexpected Power of Mindfulness & Meditation"
Copyright © 2019 Ed and Deb Shapiro.
Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Part 1 ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW,
1. ABCs, 3,
2. THE POWER OF RELAXATION, 11,
3. GROWING ROSES OUT OF COMPOST, 21,
4. THE MANY FACES OF ANGER, 27,
5. BECOMING BFFS WITH FEAR, 31,
6. THE DRAGONS IN OUR MIND, 36,
7. WE ARE NOT ALONE HERE, 41,
8. WE ARE NOT WHO WE THINK WE ARE, 51,
9. THE OPEN HEART: LOVING-KINDNESS AND COMPASSION, 58,
10. DISCOVERING FORGIVENESS, 70,
11. MEDITATION IN ACTION, 76,
12. CONTEMPLATIVE ACTIVISM, 90,
Part 2 HOW TO DO IT,
13. DOING IT, 99,
14. THE DETAILS, 107,
15. CLEAR MIND MEDITATIONS, 112,
16. OPEN HEART MEDITATION, 118,
17. TWO-MINUTE MEDITATIONS, 127,
18. MOVING MEDITATION, 131,
19. SOUNDING MEDITATION, 138,
Part 3 THE FRUITS OF SILENCE,
20. NO MIND, 147,
About the Authors, 161,