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~ A little background ~
To put this in context, I have arthritis, which also means I live on a daily basis with a chronic pain condition. This means I'm also on some pretty powerful painkillers, which I don't like to take on a daily basis, partly because of their own side effects, but also because they are opiate based, and therefore potentially something you can get hooked on.
I've also been open to other techniques that have proven medical benefits. Previously before moving to where I was, the doctor's surgery offered acupuncture to people for a wide variety of ailments. They accepted it isn't a 100 per cent help (around 85 to 90 % of people gain from acupuncture techniques), but I was fortunate in that it helped me.
Therefore when I moved, I was surprised to find out that our local health authority run what is known as the Mindfulness based Stress Reduction (and its offshoot Mindfulness based Cognitive Therapy). Because of my problems, I was one of a select few (it only has limited funding, therefore limited places) who were offered the chance to go on the course.
~ So what is this all about? ~
Jon Kabat Zinn is American who works at the University of Massachusetts. It was during this time there, he began to realize that prescription medication for Chronic Pain conditions was expensive, and in reality offers little long term help for those of us who need them. He began to look at alternatives, and knew that a lot of Buddhist Meditation Techniques bring about another effect medically, and that is reductions in areas such as raised blood pressure, gastrointestinal disorders, pain and even some cancers. He began to study it further, and then to look at ways of modifying (cherry picking if you like) the aspects of Buddhist meditation that helped reduce pain as well as giving the other benefits mentioned. Without a doubt, the program was an unparalleled success, even though other doctors who thought of it as being nothing more than something a witch doctor might use often ridiculed Jon Kabat Zinn. However, today it's been shown to be effective for a large group of patients. This means a lot of other health authorities are beginning to pick up Mindfulness based Stress Reduction and Mindfulness based Cognitive Therapy as other options of treatment.
~ So what about this CD? ~
The CD has two discs in it.
The first disc is called Mindfulness 101. This disc is specifically set up to introduce you to the whole concept of the meditation techniques, how they are effective, what you are looking for.
One of the first aspects understands the problems you might be experiencing. Whether this is because of pain, or mental downward moods - ultimately there are specific triggers that your body responds to. This means we can end up not only in pain, but also depressed. This means you often become listless, tired and fatigued, which in turn can cause further pain and you may suffer various physical complaints that do not seem to be caused by any physical illness.
It helps to explain how using the techniques on the CD, we can begin to see the patterns in your mind, and so recognize when your mood or body is beginning to go down. This means we can stop the downward trend before it becomes a bigger issue.
It also begins to explain how it helps to halt the acceleration of negative thoughts and teaches us to focus on the present moment, rather than reliving the past or pre-living the future. This might sound strange, especially when talking about pain, but it is surprising how often, even subconsciously, people wake up and the first thought might be negative. For example - Which part of me is going to ache today? It was my knees last night, will it be them again?
It then explains how it wants us to transfer our thoughts, from the mode of mind dominated by negative thinking, to make sure we can begin to see the world from another perspective altogether, whereby we are just "in that moment". That we have no judgement on what the day might bring.
From this, it is then explained it helps give us the courage to allow difficult mood, thoughts and feelings to come and go, without battling with them. We discover that difficult and unwanted thoughts and feelings can be held in awareness, and seen from an altogether different perspective - a perspective that brings with it a sense of warmth and compassion to the suffering we are experiencing.
CD2 is the one whereby you are given very specific meditation techniques (5 in total). These include the following:
Mindful Eating. This might sound strange, but there is an age-old practice of taking a raisin, and looking at it as if it was your first encounter with this ever. This is a proven Buddhist technique that immediately shows how often we don't look at the everyday around us.
Breath Meditation. This can include a very short meditation technique, and one that perhaps most people find the most beneficial initially.
From there you learn about mindfulness of the body as a whole, and you also look at mindfulness at objects and things around you (an expansion of the raisin exercise). This includes sounds, thoughts and emotions.
~ This all sounds like gobbledegook! ~
This is no crackpot cure, but a proven benefit. It is known that by learning meditation techniques, we can heal or at the very least, help disease, both physical and mental. It enables you to become peaceful, content with ourselves, and those around us, which in turn can often help us, improve the relationships we have. It allows people to move away from potentially damaging medications, again for both physical and mental problems.
Despite the main name, the overall technique is not a therapy in the strictest sense, but this CD is an introduction in to some of the most ancient techniques of meditation. To achieve this we need to learn how to watch our breath, our thoughts and our overall feelings. This becomes a method that has undoubtedly therapeutic value, and helps you not only improve your health on a daily basis, but also prevent illness in the future.
It is not, despite some people's misconceptions, about learning techniques to 'relax', although often this is a beneficial side effect.
Ultimately, the biggest hurdle most people will have with this CD set is you. This is not a quick fix on your problem, but a process and one you are totally responsible for taking on.
Of the 5 meditation techniques, you don't have to do each and everyone religiously each day. The basis of this whole technique is each person is different, and there is no right or wrong method with this all. This is where the basis of it all comes from - There is no right or wrong way to feel when doing this.
We also need to persevere with it regularly and frequently - In other words, it has to become a daily part of our lives. You can do this with the simplest of techniques, but it has to become a regular part of your day.
By taking the time to meditate, it becomes part of your life. Just as getting up and having a coffee in the morning is a routine we all learn, meditation can bring us the same benefits. It is important to remember consciously what you are being taught when you find you are at the moment of stress or illness, and again - only practice can truly help achieve this.
~ So what does the CD bring? ~
Ultimately the CD is an excellent introduction to the techniques talked about. I would advise anyone who has long term chronic pain, or long term mental health issues, to first check with your local health authority to find out if they run either of the courses mentioned, and if they do to find out how you might try and get on a course. These are often 8 weeks in length and require a 2 to 3 hour weekly slot of your time.
The CD though is a great option - whether you've taken the courses or not. It can be used as a reminder of the basics, or if you are a complete novice to this, they are an excellent introduction to the whole concept. The whole idea is we need to continue to practice meditation regularly.
I admit, the whole thing is easier and more effective when done in a group with others, especially at the beginning with an experienced teacher.
While it is possible to gain some thing from books, CD's and even DVD's - Ultimately the best understanding is only gained by being shown by someone who is extremely experienced in meditation techniques, but the CD is an excellent starting place if you cannot gain that.
~ Final thoughts ~
These CD's are superb - calm and easily accessible to everyone who has an interest.
Jon Kabat Zinn delivers the message in a way I found soothing, without being too irritating, even with some fun at times. There are occasions when repetition goes on, but that is the same with a lot of meditation CD's I've listened to over the years, because it isn't easy to leave great big "blanks" of no noise on a CD. So repetition is there, but understandable in the context. It also works on the premise that you begin to get to the point where you can do this without the CD in place.
This isn't a 'miracle' cure, because there is no such thing, and it cannot be guaranteed to work on everyone, however good the overall results, because it depends on your receptivity to it all.
If you go in with a closed mind, and refuse to allow it to open up, then you won't gain anything from it.
Ultimately, this course is based on the 'path of awareness,' as taught by the Buddha, which gave rise to Buddhism. Since this is something that has been going on for thousands of years now - There is something to be said for it all.
~ Summary ~
Overall, if you were a beginner in any kind of meditation techniques, then I would recommend this CD as a starting point. You don't have to have chronic medical conditions to benefit from the messages given, and so it is accessible for everyone who holds an interest in meditation and wants to start somewhere.
A full 5 out of 5 stars from me.
~ Availability ~
I've had a quick look online, and you can find this CD on Ebay and Amazon. Prices seem to range between £16-50 and just over £17-00 (exc. Any postage costs).
My copy was given as part of the group I attended at discount, so it might well be worth looking around and seeing what you can find.
Publisher: Sounds True Inc.,U.S.; Unabridged edition (31 Aug 2006)
Through many research studies and his pioneering work at the University of Massachusetts where he is founder of its world renowned Stress Reduction Clinic, Kabat-Zinn has served as a recognized bridge between science and meditation. With "Mindfulness for Beginners", he offers the definitive course designed specifically to introduce new students to the proven benefits of mindfulness practice, including: stress reduction, alleviation of depression, chronic pain relief and more. On CD 1, Kabat-Zinn presents "Mindfulness 101" - an accessible, comprehensive tutorial that addresses the basics of mindfulness meditation and explores the spacious, luminous and mysterious qualities of awareness itself. CD 2 guides listeners through a series of five meditations meant to be used at home, at work or while traveling. It includes Eating Meditation, Mindfulness of Breathing, and Mindfulness of the Body. Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way - on purpose, in the present moment and without judgment. This special kind of attention nurtures greater awareness, and is a simple yet powerful route for getting ourselves back in touch with our own wisdom and vitality. Now, Jon Kabat-Zinn brings the practice of meditation to the widest possible audience with "Mindfulness for Beginners".