I just discovered that UCLA has its own Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC).
From scanning over the site, I gather that it is run by UCLA Health. MARC assists in research on mindfulness, is cited in notable publications (The New York Times, Time Magazine, and The Los Angeles Times, to name a few), and lists countless professional resources for extensive information on mindful topics.
Additionally, MARC offers a range of Mindful Awareness Practices classes, workshops, retreats, mindful opportunities for youth and Spanish-speakers, and even online meditation classes.
As if all of this and more wasn’t impressive enough, MARC offers over 60 minutes worth of free guided meditations.
The guided meditations that are offered range from as short as 3 minutes to as long as 19 minutes. Some meditations are basic and focus simply on breathing and awareness of the senses. Other meditations dive a little deeper to focus the senses more intensely in preparation for a state of mindfulness involving sleep, loving relationships, and working out difficulties.
Led by a female’s steady voice occasionally accompanied by an instrument played in the background to set a tranquil mood, the instructions are given in a soothing manner. They are announced slowly so the listener can participate in the meditation at a comfortable pace.
Aside from giving the basic instructions, the speaker will remind the listener that it is okay for the mind to occasionally wander. She acknowledges that when using, for example, the sense of hearing, one may get distracted and pair a sound with a scenario in their own head. If a truck honks its horn on the street outside the window, it could be caused by a pedestrian crossing when she does not have the right of way, a car cutting the truck driver off, or a signal to get somebody’s attention to prevent a disaster from occurring. The mind’s imagination can easily be distracted by such a sound, and that is absolutely acceptable. The important thing is for the listener to return focus on breathing, and the use of the senses in the present moment.
What I found surprising about the guided meditations was the idea of breathing at one’s own pace. In my experiences meditating, I always found breathing deeply to a count of five to seven seconds was more helpful than following my breath at a natural pace. When I first began practicing basic meditation, especially, I would sometimes feel anxious or uneasy. Such feelings were accompanied by fast, unsteady breathing that was hard to transform into a more relaxed pattern. I find that beginning a meditation exercise with a structured breath makes for an easier transition into a state of mindfulness.
If right now you have a spare five minutes, below is a basic, guided breathing meditation from MARC. If you have a little extra time, you can download the full selection of guided meditations on iTunes for free here.
I will be adding the MARC website to my blogroll in the very near future.