Opening Words from Sun. September 24 by Jim Rhodes

Good morning, everyone.

I want to talk a little about the idea of meditation and the Mindfulness Meditation group that meets every Tuesday. And in a few minutes, we are all going to try to do three minutes of mindful breathing, instead of the usual one minute.

I am not the best meditator in the world. I practice meditation inconsistently at best. But I’ve been interested in meditation for a long time. I’d read books by people like Alan Watts and others that intrigued me and led me to think it might be something I should explore. And of course, I grew up in the 1960’s and the Beatles were doing transcendental meditation at all that sort of thing.

But still, deep in my engineer’s heart and brain, I am fundamentally a left-brained type of person and the idea of sitting and doing nothing seemed like a big waste of time.

So, what is meditation and why do it? I would say that it is the practice of deep inward reflection on what is happening right now with the goal of becoming more aware of your feelings, your thoughts, and your habits. And if you can do that, then I think it can help you to become a more ethical human being.

In his book “The Happiness Hypothesis,” the psychologist Jonathan Haidt says that meditation is a way to change your habitual thinking patterns. He uses the analogy of a rider on an elephant. The elephant represents your sub-conscious and while you may feel that it is your rational, awake conscious mind that is in control of everything, it is very hard to direct what the elephant is doing. But, by practicing mindful awareness of your thoughts and emotions, I think it is possible to become a little more self-aware and this can lead to a lot of positive results.

I started going to the Mindfulness Meditation group when Kate was our leader and I usually go every week. We meet for an hour at 9 am each Tuesday and we start with a 20-minute silent meditation. We then have a discussion topic related to mindfulness and we end with another ten minutes of silent meditation.

So, for the next three minutes, I suggest you close your eyes and just focus on your breath. It sometimes helps me to just count to a hundred – if you can – and then start over again. You can’t really stop your thought process so just try to observe quietly what is going through your brain. Try to just notice not just your thoughts but how you feel and maybe scan your body to notice any tension or discomfort you might be feeling. And the three minutes – I promise – will go by quickly. There will be a “gong” sound at the beginning and end, and I will have one minute interval gongs sounding as well.

[Ring gong and start silent meditation]

[After three minutes and last gong, say the following]

I would like to welcome anyone who might like to experience more of this to come to the Mindfulness Meditation hour downstairs at 9 am each Tuesday. Thank you.

NOTE: The ideas and opinions in this post do not necessarily express the thoughts or opinions of the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.