Free Resources – a collection of free to download mindfulness exercises in a centralized location. The spirit of this project is one of openness and compassion, encouraging the sharing of mindfulness resources.
Free Guided Meditations for Download
I recently came across this site, The Free Mindfulness Project, and was really excited by their resource page for online and free guided meditations. Within their 20+ meditations available for free download, they address body scanning, sitting practice, mindful movement, and guided imagery. Their meditations last anywhere from three (3) to 45 minutes — great for anyone wanting to get started or keep their practice enlivened with a fresh approach.
What are the benefits of meditation?
Results from a 2010 systematic review of neurobiological and clinical features of mindfulness meditations included:
- a significant increase in alpha and theta activity during meditation
- mindfulness meditation practice activates the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC)
- long-term meditation practice is associated with an enhancement of cerebral areas related to attention.
- Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) has shown efficacy for many psychiatric and physical conditions and also for healthy subjects, especially reducing relapses of depression
- Zen meditation significantly reduces blood pressure
- Vipassana meditation shows efficacy in reducing alcohol and substance abuse in prisoners
Are there risks to “mindfulness meditation” practice?
The short answer is maybe, for some folks, under certain circumstances. There was a recent article published in the Guardian, “Is mindfulness making us ill?” in which the author, Dawn Foster, touches on something Tibetan Buddhists would call “lung (pronounced loong),” i.e. ‘meditator’s disease.’ Ven. Lhundup Nyingje describes this pattern as congested qi around the Heart chakra, or straining the nervous system. The direct translation of the Tibetan term is “wind.” In Chinese medicine, we’d consider either to be pathological, each having their own set of manifestations. Foster describes her own experience as, “After meditation I would do things that were out of character, acting erratically. I had panic attacks.” A friend of mine described her experience as an internal wind that moved through the body, causing intense and enduring pain. From an energy work standpoint, I’ve also read it described as a tear in the Heart chakra.
Interestingly, Ven. Lhundup Nyingje writes, “People who meditate for stress reduction purposes only and aren’t interested in attaining enlightenment probably don’t get lung. We get lung because we are trying to do something, trying to attain something, instead of relaxing and letting it happen naturally. Lung comes from forcing our mind beyond its capacity to stay relaxed while meditating. The key to good meditation is a relaxed mind.” For this reason, I encourage anyone looking to make meditation a regular part of their daily life to seek out a community and/or teacher under which to study. There’s nothing quite like having objective feedback on what’s needed in one’s practice, and the opportunity to share experience. (Personally, I recommend the Seattle Buddhist Center here in Seattle.)
Are there other types of meditation?
Yes. “Mindfulness Meditation” is a “western, non-sectarian, research-based form of meditation derived from a 2,500 year old Buddhist practice called Vipassana or Insight Meditation.” In addition to this practice, there is also “Samatha (pronounced sha-ma-ta)” practices within the Buddhist tradition. These include most notably the anapanasati (mindfulness of breathing) and the metta bhavana (cultivation of loving kindness) practices. In my community, Triratna, it is strongly recommended to alternate these practices — mindfulness of breathing, and the cultivation of loving kindness — so as to cultivate positive emotion and concentration of mind. When practiced together, we can begin to fully integrate and transform our mental states.
Where can I find free guided meditations on loving kindness?
Tara Brach has a plethora of guided meditations that free the heart online available by donation (no payment required, but always welcomed). Likewise, Free Buddhist Audio also has a number of free guided meditations for the mindfulness of breathing and metta bhavana (donation welcome).
What about you?
What’s been your experience with meditation? Have you found it helpful? Why or why not?