Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Susan Smalley, Ph.D. - There's a Different Way to 'Meditate' For Everyone

This is a nice introduction to the idea that everyone needs to find the meditation that works best for him or her - there is not one right approach that works for everyone. Oh yeah, and you do not need to be a Buddhist to get the benefits (with apologies to the traditional Buddhists who seem to hate the idea of meditation as a technology separate from the Buddhist tradition).

From the Huffington Post.

There's a Different Way to 'Meditate' For Everyone

Susan Smalley, Ph.D.

Posted: May 12, 2010 10:24 AM

The other night a husband and wife were asking me about meditation; the wife was a mediator and the husband was not. She clearly reaped great benefit from it and must have trying to get her husband to do it, but to no avail. I told the husband that I've been working to bring meditation to UCLA, in the medical school where our center is located (, with a goal to teach meditation practices in a secular way, particularly in light of emerging research supporting its benefits on health and well-being.

I also noted that meditation is really a means of investigating the mind, something perhaps we can all benefit from in this very "outward" oriented culture. I could see that he was interested (despite his wife's facial expression of 'I told you so'). But he acknowledged that he has been very 'turned off' by anything that seemed "New Age."

It occurred to me how much I cringe at the idea of sounding "New Age" or of people, books, and programs that seem "New Age." I noticed how hard we work not to be seen as "New Age" in any way. But it's clear that these ancient practices of meditation, yoga, tai chi are emerging at a new time or a new age from their origins so that the term is, in a way, kind of accurate. But I know what I dislike about the "New Age" stereotype -- it's not the practice or exercises that are being taught -- but how they are being described.

A more New Age teacher might reference "spirit," "divine" or other metaphysical term while a more secular-oriented teacher would not. (The same practices taught in a religious setting would likely differ in description as well). Our Center classes provide tools for meditation using a framework of inward exploration, with experimentation and discovery the guiding framework necessary for practice.

Many people tells us that through practice they experience a sense of connection to something larger than themselves but prefer terms like "humanity," "evolution," the "universe at large" or "nature" to describe it. Others with a religious slant often describe that their connection to God is deepened through practice. Others note that they are happier, more content, and kinder to themselves, others, and the planet without reference to any other constructs.

I remember in our first classes at UCLA overhearing someone in attendance say, "I always wanted to learn to meditate and now that UCLA says it's okay I'm going to do it." That made me pause and think how the setting within which we learn something can be deterring or supportive, but it certainly it plays an important role.

The husband I met was seeking a tool or means of inward reflection but steered away from meditation because of its New Age clothing. As science dresses it anew, (described in secular terms with research around it) perhaps he can try it on again for size. There is some technique for everyone - whether that is walking in nature, sitting in a lotus position, meditation to music, or practicing calligraphy (among many, many others). There are clearly many ways to explore the mind.

(For free guided meditations go to and click on mindfulness meditations).

Here are the meditations available at the link above (one stop education):

Mindful Meditations

For an introduction to mindfulness meditation that you can practice on your own, click on the following links, turn on your speakers and click on the forward arrow "play" button.

To download an mp3 meditation, please right click 'download mp3' and select "Save Target As..." or it may do so automatically.

To play a .wma file on a Mac computer you may need to first download Windows Media Player (free).

5 minute Breathing Meditation (play) (mp3 download)

12 minute Breath, Sound, Body Meditation (play) (mp3 download)

19 minute Complete Meditation Instructions (play) (mp3 download)

7 minute Meditation for Working with Difficulties (play) (mp3 download)

9:30 minute Loving Kindness Meditation (play) (mp3 download)

3 minute short Body and Sound meditation. (play) -->this is an mp3 download

3 minute short Loving Kindness meditation. (play)

All meditations by MARC's Director for Mindfulness Education, Diana Winston.

Mindfulness Clock (for PC Users)

Mindfulness Clock (for Mac Users)

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