Meditate, as defined in the dictionary, is to think intently and at length; to reflect deeply on a subject. This may be for spiritual purposes.
When the subject of meditation comes to mind, many picture the cartoon with the turbaned swami, in lotus position, sitting at the entrance of a cave on a mountain top. If not this image, perhaps one of tie-died, alternative lifestyle proponents…or those not willing to live in the here and now…or slackers…or Yanni fans.
Would it surprise you to know that meditation is a practice which can actually change the way your mind works in order to achieve health and wellness, higher levels of performance, minimize or eradicate certain medical conditions, and create joy?
In “The Practical Neuroscience of Buddha’s Brain” by Rick Hanson, PhD., Dr. Hanson writes:
‘Meditation increases gray matter in brain regions that handle attention,
compassion, and empathy. It also helps a variety of medical conditions,
strengthens the immune system, and improves psychological functioning.‘
Wow. Maybe those New Age goof-bugs are on to something!
The medical conditions that have been shown to improve upon entering into the practice of meditation are…allergies…anxiety…asthma…binge eating…cancer…depression…fatigue…heart conditions…high blood pressure…pain…sleep irregularities…substance abuse.
Even the June 2011 issue of “Health” magazine calls meditation “The single best All-Natural Painkiller”. In a study at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, meditation reduced pain by 40 percent as compared with morphine, which only reduced the same pain by 25 percent. Robert Coghill, PhD, associate professor of neurobiology said subjects used the “focused attention” technique in dealing with the effects of a pain-inducing heating device used in the controlled study. (Health.com)
So – as the joke goes – Don’t just do something…sit there!
The mind/brain is a powerful combination, but as I have written before, the mind is not always our friend. Often it actually gets in the way of our achievement and happiness. Richard Dawkins, author of “The Selfish Gene”, talks about ‘memes’, which are self-replicating ideas, usually of a negative nature. Dr. Hanson, in “Buddha’s Brain”, writes that the mind is wired to go to a negative and hang onto it, constantly seeing every life event through the lens of that negative image. Both authors believe that this ‘self-replication’ entrenches that negative thought, giving it greater power over us each time it runs the circuit through our brain.
Meditation can redirect this mind game.
“We are sick with fascination for the useful tools of names and numbers, of symbols, signs, conception and ideas. Meditation is therefore the art of suspending verbal and symbolic thinking for a time, somewhat as a courteous audience will stop talking when a concert is about to begin.” Alan Watt.
But suspend thinking for what?
Meditation is the art of going within.
“Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.” Carl Jung
Traditional religion and the Esoterics teach that the “creator” gives us an inner wisdom, holy spirit, higher intelligence, subconscious mind – whatever you want to call it. This knowing presence always serves as a guide to where we want to go and via the most direct route. All we have to do is to be quiet long enough to hear that wisdom we hold within and then act on it.
Make no mistake. Meditation is a practice. It is not always easy to meditate. It is a life-long pursuit of a state that Osho calls “no-mind” – the ability to be a mirror, to watch the world, our thoughts, pass through us without attachment of emotion or an expectation of outcome.
“Meditation is at its most potent when you have no expectation, when you’re open to everything and when you maintain an attitude of naive fascination.” Paul Wilson in “The Quiet”
How to start if you have never tried to meditate? Going back to the “focused attention” tecnhique: Close your eyes, breathe through your nose, and concentrate on the air coming in and going out. Feel the warm air on your upper lip as you exhale. If your ‘mind’ wanders, let it. Tell it you will come back to that in a bit and redirect your attention to the breath on your lip. The more you practice, the better it works!
“He who breathes deepest lives most.” Elizabeth Barrett Browning
The Legacy Performance and Integrated Wellness Center hosts Guided Meditations each month. We know the power of thought…Step 3 in the Legacy Wellness Program: Begin to think. We use meditation as a tool for Goal Setting, Performance Training, Life-Living! Check our monthly calendar for times. (Monday, May 23rd. at 7:00 PM is the next one!)