A Research Paper By Lichenyang Zhou, Intimate Relationship Coach, CHINA
How to Practice Mindfulness Meditation
The 2022 pandemic situation and China’s zero covid policy, in a very short time, have disrupted everything we know and everything we are familiar with for those who live in Shanghai.
Under lockdown, we have never been so vulnerable and so alone. While the cities dwell in quietness under lockdown, we, the people, on the other hand, are experiencing our accumulated negative emotions fermenting inside ourselves, under the silent surface, like a dark tide threatening beneath the still water, uncontrollably devouring our sense of security, calmness, certainty, and control.
It is precisely because of this observation, that meditation comes to mind, as it’s been proven to be an effective way of cultivating self-care and compassion for each other. A great number of research has shown that practicing meditation is beneficial for anxiety and stress reduction, attention regulation, and emotional stability.
This article explores how meditation can be incorporated into my coaching practice, and how it can be combined to provide awareness, self-acceptance, and ultimately, inner peace, to a growing population in this special period of time.
What Is Mindfulness Meditation?
What Is Meditation?
Meditation is nothing but a way to train our awareness in order to calm our minds and body. It is an approach developed with Hinduism and Buddhism. “Meditation is the most direct, practical, and simple way of training the mind,” says the Bhutanese lama KhyentseNorbu. (2012)
There are many types of meditation. For example, Zen meditation traces back to the ancient Buddhist tradition, involving focusing on “just be.” Mantra meditation, which focuses on repeating a word, a syllable, or a phrase, encourages positive change from the vibration. Yoga is known in our modern day as an exercise, but it was also originally created as a form of meditation, to calm and relax the mind as the body strengthens.
Generally, meditation methodologies are categorized into either for calming the body and mind, “samatha,” or for generating a new insight, perspective, or cultivating compassion “vipassana.” (Headspace)
Specifically, we will be closely examining two types of meditation methods: mindfulness meditation (samatha), and reflective meditation (vipassana).
Mindfulness-based meditation is one of the methodologies for meditation, broadly defined as practicing nonjudgmental attention to experiences in the present moment, or “practicing being.” (Jon Kabat-Zinn, 1990) Or, according to Mindfulness Nation UK’s annual report definition, “mindfulness means paying attention to what’s happening in the present moment in the mind, body and external environment, with an attitude of curiosity and kindness.” (Mindful Nation UK, 2015)
Meditators with mindfulness practice focus attention, and often times the object of attention is our own breaths. Meditators are asked to sit or lie down quietly, and observe, rather than control, their breaths. As their thoughts and feelings distract the attention, meditators are simply asked to accept the distraction, note the distraction, and let it go. In this way, we anchor the mind and still the mind.
Reflective meditation almost builds on mindfulness meditation. It is a contemplative practice. Meditators are invited to ask a question to themselves, or focus on past experience or a future situation the focus of reflection and deep thinking. When properly directed, the flow of thought becomes more lucid and can lead to the emergence of the great potential of the mind.
During this process, meditators are instructed to observe what comes up in their mind, as they throw this question, experience, or situation into the mind like a still lake. One must simply notice, without analyzing. Meditators are asked to focus on feelings, rather than thoughts, as they practice reflective meditation.
Through this methodology, the meditator’s relationship to the question or idea would reach a different level. One can relate to it with more understanding, confidence, and appreciation. (Lucie Silvas, 2017)
What Does Meditation Do?
Meditation has a wide range of benefits from stress reduction to emotional regulation. More importantly, more than the health benefits that many studies have proven (Hölzel et. al, 2011), meditation allows a quiet space for us to examine, and arrive at the key to learning that we are not our thoughts. It untangles us from the story and narrative that we so often get stuck in and frees us to see what’s going on.
Fundamentally, meditation shifts us from “doing” to “being.” It anchors a space and time where one lives, instead of waiting for living to happen. In this space, new thoughts and perspectives may come, and afterward one feels a deeper relaxation, calmness, and oftentimes, an expanded view.
What Does Meditation Not Do?
If we use the metaphor of a storyline to resemble our lives and their challenges, meditation does not alter the overarching storyline.
Mindfulness is not a solution to your story problem. So don’t cancel your therapy appointment. It is not a narrative solution at all. Instead, Mindfulness is a solution for the problem of having to live with these narrative constraints. (Daron Larson, 2015)
Meditation is not a dialogue, but an internal, private, and individual experience, thus compared to coaching, it doesn’t, or if it does it may take longer, to have the moment of perspective shift that is critical to individual growth.
What Is Coaching?
Coaching involves a dialogue between a coach and a client with the aim of supporting the client to reach a goal.
The International Coaching Federation (ICF) defines coaching as ‘partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.’
What Does Coaching Do?
A coach’s job is to support the client to move from where they are now to where they want to be and to do that in a way that allows the client to take the reins and direct the process. The client sets the intention for the session, the client identifies any goals and, with the coach’s expertise, brings forward any blockages or challenges. They do this, however, within a structure and a process provided by the coach. (ICA)
The ICA course module also describes this coaching support as a “flashlight” shone to help the clients explore their dimly lit closet, and examine all in it to “unearth a vision, a new idea, or an action.”(ICA)
What Are the Limitations Of the Coaching Methodology?
Coaching’s underlying belief is that
everyone is resourceful and creative with energy, wisdom, ability and genius waiting to be set in motion. (ICA)
However, this belief needs not only to be realized by the client but also felt by the client. Coaching may successfully help the client see the potential that dwells inside of them. To be able to really feel creative, resourceful, and complete, the client must continue with ongoing, repeated sessions in order to arrive at the goal, and this long-term engagement, especially when being afforded by the individual, not the company, could be financially unavailable to a lot of people.
For ongoing accountability, the client is almost left on their own to really ground in the change they have realized from the session. The following part of this article discusses how we may be able to incorporate meditation practices in ways that either help the learning process or reinforce the accountability process after the learning has happened.
Use Meditation Before Coaching:
The aim here would be to use meditation as a prepping tool, allowing the client to first come into the space and stop, relax, and destress before starting the session. It may encourage a quieter space for the client to start exploring, instead of coming directly from their hurried and anxiety-filled daily life.
Use Meditation During Coaching:
Here we may examine a case study of the masterful coach, Byron Katie, who constructed a list of very ingenuously designed questions, and instead of continuously exploring, she asks the clients to meditate after each question. Her signature question, “is it true?” actually may even find its roots in Buddhism philosophy, encouraging a very powerful perspective shift. (Byron Katie)
Use Meditation After Coaching:
Parts of ongoing coach support can be incorporated into meditation practice in the following weeks to deepen the client’s learning and encourage growth. With an expanded knowledge of different types of meditations and the specific needs of that client, the coach may be able to select one, or a range of, meditation tools and techniques and encourage the client to continue practicing on their own, almost as homework, between sessions.
DzongsarJamyangKhyentse(KhyentseNorbu), “The Path and View in Buddhism”, 2012
Jon Kabat-Zinn, “Full Catastrophe Living”, 1990
Tim Loughton & Jess Morden, “Mindful Nation UK”, Report by the Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group (MAPPG), 2015
Lucie Silvas, In-Depth Reflective Meditation For Beginners Like Many of Us, 2017
Hölzel BK, Lazar SW, Gard T, Schuman-Olivier Z, Vago DR, Ott U. How Does Mindfulness Meditation Work? Proposing Mechanisms of Action From a Conceptual and Neural Perspective. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 2011
Daron Larson, Ted Talk, 2015 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ze6t34_p-84
Byron Katie, https://thework.com/