Become more focused with mindfulness
Mindfulness has become increasingly trendy in recent years; however, Buddhists have been practicing this as a way of life for centuries.
As the world turns the page of a new chapter and enters a new year there is much to be mindful of and believers from all faiths can benefit from a more intentional way of living.
Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing your awareness on the present moment.
Dan Dempster, a contemporary artist and Dharma teacher, explains how mindfulness is of value to people across all faiths.
He said: “Developing calm, clarity and compassion for the benefit of all beings is a nonsectarian, altruistic motivation. Taming your own ego and getting it out of the way is absolutely necessary to see a deeper connection with vastness, however so named.”
“We live in a distracted time, overwhelmed by information overload. Now, more than ever, we need tools and techniques to help us calm and focus our minds to cut through the confusion.”
Mr Dempster, who grew up in Bermuda, has been practicing meditation for roughly twenty years. During his journey he has been mentored by Lama Khenpo Migmar, a Buddhist Chaplain at Harvard University. He was authorised as a Dharma teacher by Lama Migmar in 2014.
“I have been his student for over fourteen years,” he said. “I don’t know much; I just see beauty in vastness and point that out to help free others’ minds.”
Mr Dempster was first introduced to meditation two decades ago, while working through the grief of his father’s suicide.
“About twenty years ago in Bermuda I started practicing meditation with a local Tibetan Buddhist group recommended by a good friend,” he said. “It clicked instantly. I liked the practice and began travelling to get more teachings.“
“My motivation to teach Dharma and meditation has been to help people through the pain and confusion of their lives as I wish I’d been able to do for my father, had I known then what I know now.”
Meditation is often associated with the Buddhist and Hindu religions; however, its principals and benefits are interfaith. Scientifically, meditation has been proven to assist with balancing mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression. It has also been proven to increase concentration, reduce stress and improve sleep.
“Through meditation we learn to calm and focus our minds,” Mr Dempster said. “But calming meditation, while temporarily beneficial, is not sufficient to uproot the causes of our confusion. That is accomplished through study and contemplation to learn about these causes, and further practices to see and to test these truths for ourselves.”
“Clarity is found in recognising our true nature. In essence, we are all naturally free and vast, and fundamentally interconnected. If we look honestly and deeply, we can see that nothing exists without relying on everything and everyone else for its existence. Limitless, non-preferential compassion arises spontaneously from this insight.”
Mr Dempster incorporates his mediation practice and teachings into his artwork on showcase at his studio, Dempster Contemporary Art, in Los Angeles.
“In 1994 someone gave me The Way of Zen by Alan Watts,” he said. “I remember the shock of recognition as I skimmed through it, thinking, ’I already do this, and this, and my art is this! What’s this?’ I recognised that my way of seeing and conveying that insight through art to bring people peace, has always been meditation. Art is meditation; meditation is art.”
In December Mr Dempster began hosting free virtual mediation sessions as Los Angeles began its second lockdown of the year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Since the first shutdown, I’ve been unable to teach meditation groups in person, or show my work,” he said. “In a small effort to alleviate the appalling stress we’ve been enduring in 2020, on December 3 I began offering a free online evening meditation practice for my friends.
“It happened to coincide with the announcement of the second LA lockdown the following day, to deal with another surge in the rate of Covid infections in California.”
The daily meditation sessions will be held via Zoom at 11pm through January 20. They are open to anyone from any faith background and all meditation levels. There is no experience required.
“These are simple, yet profound practices I’ve taught to meditation groups in Bermuda and abroad for years, condensed to a 30-minute online format,” he said. “Although this session may be a little late for some in Bermuda, 11 to 11.30pm, if you are still up, bothered, and anxious about the state of the world, join us to calm down and feel better. Depression and despair have always been with us. This can help.”
To join the meditation sessions please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for the Zoom login ID and passcode.