By Pip Andreas
The simple art of paying attention is not so simple. While technology has given us the freedom to organise our lives and multi-task, it’s also causing us to divide our attention constantly throughout the day, 24/7. Multi tasking is actually a myth because it is impossible to focus on several thoughts at exactly the same time.
According to psychologist John Barter, we are actually swap tasking when we are talking on our phones, checking Facebook on the tablet, working on a task on the computer and listening to the digital radio station all at the same time. The result is a flood of constant disconnected thoughts and lack of attention on any one thing. Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now, said “Not to be able to stop thinking is a dreadful affliction, but we don’t realize this because almost everyone is suffering from it, so it is considered normal. This incessant mental noise prevents you from finding that realm of inner stillness that is inseparable from Being.”
Meditation is becoming increasingly popular on the Gold Coast as people are trying to find a way to ‘slow down’ the torrent of thoughts going on in their heads, and to deal with the stress that brings. The aim of meditation is to focus attention, be in the present moment not past or future, and not to be judgmental of or get caught up in any thoughts that arise. This is known as a state of ‘Mindfulness’. Jon Kabat Zinn’s program of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction has been researched extensively and shown to reduce stress and suffering in people’s lives significantly.
Insight Meditation is a form of meditation that monitors experience such as emotion and thoughts moment to moment without reacting. It’s a more advanced form of meditation, however, just practising any focussed attention form of meditation can have numerous benefits on its own. The focussed attention can be on the breath, a mantra (word), body scan, visualisation, or staring at a candle to name a few.
Practicing meditation regularly over time has also been shown to reorganise the brain’s neural pathways in a process known as neuroplasticity. The effects range from long term improved attention and working memory, to reduced stress. Professor Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin in the US used MRI imaging on Buddhist monks who had been meditating for years, and found much higher activation in areas of the brain that are responsible for compassion and empathy than novice meditators. So meditation may also help improve relationships.
Meditation classes are available all around the Gold Coast. Try the following:
The Mind Centre, 49 South Bay Drive, Varsity Lakes. Tuesdays 6pm to 7pm
The Mind Centre offers Mindfulness Meditation classes with John Barter, a psychologist who was a Buddhist monk in the Theravada tradition for nearly 11 years.
The Australian School of Meditation and Yoga, 2241 Gold Coast Highway, Nobby’s Beach. Meditation classes using a mantra, and kirtan, or singing, meditation as well as Hatha yoga is offered here.
Ganden Kadampa, Big B Arcade, James St, Burleigh Heads. This is a Tibetan based Buddhist centre in the Gelug tradition. They are headed by the Ganden Tripa not the Dalai Lama.
Gold Coast Yoga Centre, 37/2 Eighth Ave, Palm Beach. Every Friday, guided meditation classes suitable for beginners, are run here from 6pm to 7pm.
Special thanks to Erin Bourne at www.calmerclass.com.au for the featured image.