Mindfulness Mentor: The Mountain Meditation

When you are stressed out with life’s endless chaos — whether it be due to putting on a “happy face” for grumpy customers at your retail job, staying up until 2 a.m. grading papers for class, or having to write a ten-page research paper — it seems that turning to nature as a safe haven for stress relief is common, and can often save you from growing too many unwanted grey hairs on your head.

Mindfulness and meditation expert, John Kabat-Zinn, author of the book Wherever You Go There You Are (the book I based my previous posts on), suggests that if you cannot retreat to nature, then to imagine and embody a mountain. The reason to envision mountains above other nature panoramas, is because mountains possess organic strength formed by elemental rock. Mountains are rock-hard and rock-solid, and therefore their firmness and robust being should be something we adopt and encompass within ourselves. Mountains are unchanging even through violent thunderstorms, harsh winds, and blizzard conditions; despite these situations, the mountain sits in stillness unfazed.

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Ways you can practice this form of mindfulness is to picture in your mind’s eye a mountain you find beautiful, are familiar with, or have visited. This could be the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee, The Rocky Mountains of Colorado, or volcanic giant Mount St. Helen. There is no right or wrong, the mountain you picture could have steep sloping sides, multiple peaks, sharp round ridges, be covered in snow, or concealed by luscious grass and bushy trees.

While you sit, holding this image in your mind, you can embody the same unwavering stillness in the face of everything that changes in your own life over seconds, hours, and years. Begin to transfer the image in your mind to your body posture and positioning. Kabat-Zinn suggests that your head should become the lofty peak, your shoulders and arms the side of the mountain, your buttocks and legs the solid base rooted into your chair or cushion.

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Experience in your body an uplift, elevated quality of the mountain deep in your own spine. Invite yourself to become a breathing mountain, unwavering in your stillness, completely what you are — beyond words and thought, a centered, rooted, unmoving presence (Kabat-Zinn, 137). In our lives we experience constantly the changing nature of mind and body of the outer world. We experience darkness and light through tragic situations, hardships, and joyful moments — just as the mountain experiences different weather cycles.

“The weather of our own lives is not to be ignored or denied. It is to be encountered, honored, felt, known for what it is, and held in high awareness. In holding it in this way, we can come to know a deeper silence, stillness, and wisdom than we may have though possible, right within the storms,” (Kabat-Zin, 139).

In other words, be “the calm within the storm” instead of “the calm before the storm!”

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Next time you are stressed out and have doubts that you will not be able to accomplish the task at hand, pause for a brief moment and practice this “mountain meditation.” You might be able to find the strength and resilience to cheerfully smile when working with unpleasant customers, push through grading papers, and develop the grit to buckle down and type every last page of that research paper.

By practicing this form of meditation, you can learn to invite the unexpected into your life and handle it with a form of serenity. By doing so you are effectively implementing a form of calmness abiding all change.

— Andrea Holm, Mindfulness Blogger

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