Is the benefit of meditation real

Is the benefit of meditation to be real?

Is the benefit of meditation  real, and more fundamentally, how do we define or discover what is real?

The ultimate benefit of meditation is self-realization or Unity consciousness, the deep feeling of peace and the physical benefits that attend this feeling are the ‘side effects’ of a regular meditation practice.

 Self-realization is the only way we can define or discover what is real. The external world is an illusion that shifts based on our social conditioning and the way we perceive it in the moment. The practice of meditation is a precise way of calming the mind so that we can attain a state of consciousness that is completely different than the normal waking state. It is a way to explore all the levels of ourselves until we arrive at the center of our consciousness within, which is the place of our truth.   

As he begins his answer to these questions, Lewis Richmond a Buddhist writer and teacher, explains “I often say when I teach meditation, “We meditate not just to be calm, but to be real.”

So, here are Lewis Richmond’s thoughts on discovering what it means to be real…

As meditation is finding its way in the West and looking for authentic cultural roots, we are bound to re-enact Siddhartha’s own search, re-discover his own disappointments and illuminations. As Kalu Rinpoche, one of the young Tibetan teachers (he is in his early 20s) said recently in a public gathering, “Dharma is reality.” I thought this was quite profound, especially coming from one so young. He went on to explain that most religion, including Buddhism, offers an escape from reality, rather than a transforming insight about it. But Dharma is not like that. It is about what is true and real. Buddhist meditation is ultimately a way to discover that truth.

Once a student said to Suzuki Roshi, “My meditation is no good; I’m thinking all the time.” o which Suzuki replied, “What’s wrong with thinking?”

Suzuki meant it as a deep question. What is wrong with thinking? Is all thinking wrong, or just some thinking? Is thinking during meditation a bad thing? The sixth ancestor of Zen, Hui Neng, specifically taught that to empty the mind of all thoughts during meditation is not a Buddhist practice. Thrangu Rinpoche, a living Mahamudra master, once said (in the book “Pointing Out the Dharmakaya”), “sometimes you have a really bad thought when you meditate.” And to stress the point he added, “No I mean a really bad thought!”

When the laughter subsided he went on to say, “No problem. Just keep meditating.”

There is nothing wrong with meditating in order to calm the mind. All of us can use more calmness in the midst of a busy life. In fact, without some calmness in meditation it is impossible to see anything clearly or distinguish what is real from what is illusion. Once we have attained a stable, calm mind, we can then go deeper. We can, as Zen Master Dogen famously said, “study the self.” Who is this person that is meditating? Where do these thoughts and feelings that rise and fall originate, and where do they go when they subside? Why do I suffer? Why do other people suffer? What is the cause of that woe? How can it be convincingly assuaged?

These are the questions that Siddhartha asked as he continued his spiritual quest, continuing to probe deeper, until he was satisfied that he had gotten to the bottom of his inquiry. That is the real treasure that Buddhism has to offer, and it may take us a long time in the West to bring this treasure to full fruition.

It is possible. The Buddha was not a god or a super-being, but an ordinary human being just like us. If he could do it, we can do it. People in every generation have the same opportunity as the Buddha had to see behind the curtain of illusion to the reality beneath.

Each of us can be Buddha, which means being awake to what is real.Original article…

To see ‘behind the curtain of illusion,’ we must learn how to be still and examine what is within ourselves, sometimes found in the silence, but always found in awareness.  

Is the benefit of meditation to be real? If your meditation practice, regardless of the technique, gently awakens you to the different levels of your being, one after another, and you have be authentic with yourself in this process, then you will discover the truth, which is the highest form of reality.  

Please tell me about your journey of self-discovery and exploration of ‘reality.’

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The Three Stages of the Breath as a Vehicle for Meditation

Three stages of the breath as a vehicle for meditation

There are three stages of the breath as a vehicle for meditation, witnessing, relaxing the nervous system and stilling the mind.

In the wisdom tradition of Yoga, the breath is used as a vehicle for self-awareness and as a subtle focus that carries us inward. Following the breath is the means to a deeper connection and concentration of the mind-body, which leads to a sweet sense of peace and tranquility.

Meditation begins as we bring our awareness to the breath, following the rhythmic movements and the natural sensations of the many elements of breathing. This witnessing, which is the first stage of breath awareness is the process of bring awareness to all the physical and mental elements, from awareness of the air movement in and out of our lungs to the slowing of thoughts arising in the mind.

As we settle into awareness there is a shift that begins to take place in our nervous system. There is a close relationship between the breath and our nervous system; if we are frightened or apprehensive our breath is shallow and short, stopping and starting erratically, if however, we breathe slowly and deeply our nervous system relaxes.

Finally as the nervous system relaxes the mind begins to quiet and focus. From this deeper state of focused concentration, meditation becomes possible.

Let’s explore the three elements a bit closer.

Witnessing     

Witnessing is the process of bringing your attention fully to each of the sensations in the mind-body.

Notice the cool feeling as the air rushes up through your nose on the in breath and how it’s warmed as the air is expelled. As you settle in to your awareness, begin to focus on the inhalation, feeling a sense of renewal with each breath in and then renew your focus on the out breath and the release of tension that takes place with it. Allow this process to become a rhythmic pattern, following each breath, one at a time.

Once you have become comfortable with allow your awareness to move into the body, follow the breath into your chest, feel the movement of all the muscles as each expands and contracts as the breath fills your lungs. You will notice a difference in the way and amount different muscle will contract and expand depending on the position you are in, whether sitting erect or lying down, be aware of those differences.

Remember this is a natural process, so let it occur naturally, there is no need to ‘conform’ to a ‘style’ of breathing. If you sit in an upright and erect position you will become aware that there is less expansion of your chest as you breathe and it becomes more of a widening in your rib cage. But, whatever position you choose, let each breath flow into the next, without pause but without forcing or trying to control it, this is because a pause leaves an opening for the mind to become distracted.

Later during meditation you can maintain awareness even if you return your attention to the breath. You become the witness of your own breathing.

The breath is affected by a number of different factors as you move through your day. Each emotion has its own unique form of breathing, whether crying or laughter, the breath changes. Stress also has a deep and pervasive effect, restricting the normal flow of our breath, because of this our health can be adversely affected. However, as we develop an awareness of our breath through practice and because we can control our breathing voluntarily, we can make adjustments that will have a positive effect.   

As your practice evolves it will, naturally and organically, become less about controlling your breath and more about being the witness.

Relaxing the Nervous System

Meditation is a process of letting go, especially in the beginning; there is the release of negative energy in the form of stress, negative emotions, worry or regret. These thoughts are released as we slip into the meditative state, arising from their subconscious moorings.

Because the breath can be voluntary it is possible to maintain equilibrium reducing the natural tension between negative thoughts and conscious relaxed breathing. Through awareness and presence (witnessing) when we notice the negative thoughts arising by focusing on and preserving the relaxed breath, we can maintain self-control.

It is while practicing meditation that breath awareness will interrupt the flow of negative energy, keeping it from taking up residency, which in turn calms the nervous system. It’s breath awareness and the associated relaxed nervous system that allows us to create distance between our witnessing self and the causes of our stress.

Meditation – Stilling the Mind

It is in the deeper stages of breath awareness and as our nervous system relaxes that leads us in to the meditative state. This is accomplished as we combine breath awareness with a mantra; a process of watching the breath move in and out through the nose while repeating a mantra or sound.  

When the attention is on the breath, the air moving in and out of the nose, then the focus of our concentration is on a physical sensation. When we add the mantra to the breath, we move our focus from the physical sensation to the mental sound. This practice deepens the anchor of our concentration and focus.

The number one challenge a beginning meditator faces is becoming distracted by thought. Breath awareness works much like a meditation ‘safety net,’ catching us when we inevitably lose our concentration.

As our practice evolves the mental repetition of our mantra will replace breath awareness, allowing it to fade gently into the background. Ultimately, the same process will happen to the mantra, and as it fades the silence that has always been there emerges as we enter the field of unbounded awareness.    

Understanding and practicing the three stages of the breath as a vehicle for meditation, will allow you to move from meditation as a practice to meditation as an experience.

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Meditation Benefits: Finding Time with Meditation

Meditation Benefits: Finding Time with Meditation

Meditation Benefits: Finding Time with Meditation

Finding time with meditation is first about finding time to meditate. The second biggest challenge (the first being thoughts) that a new meditator will face is establishing a regular meditation routine.

I’m aware that every moment offers us the opportunity to be mindful, but this too is a practice. Creating a regular practice routine allows the new meditator time to develop a relationship with their practice and chance to fall in love with meditation. Once this relationship is established then time always is easily found, but until that time, some discipline is required.

The traditional time for the first meditation of the day is the hour or two right after you get up and around sunrise is preferred. This is because your mind and body are rested from deep sleep, and your mind hasn’t moved into full gear with the concerns of the day.

Early morning meditation, where you can set your intentions for a peaceful and enjoyable day, will help bring peace of mind to your activities throughout the day.

In her post, Colleen Morton Busch reveals her morning routine and how it “can help you find time.

 “Morning meditation at the zendo ends around 7 a.m. I have my whole day ahead, and much of the world around me hasn’t had coffee. I love this feeling, this perception of a vast space full of daylight and potential. It’s not just that I’m getting a jump on things — though I admit that’s part of it. It’s more about having an experience of time that isn’t so much an arrow between birth and death as it is all existence unfolding in each moment — if I pay attention.

Time can feel like a burden, an obstacle or a runaway train. Sometimes I push against it, shrug it off, stretch its seams. But time can’t be bossed around. As 13th century Zen ancestor Eihei Dogen pointed out, “Time itself is being, and all being is time.” Discord with time creates discord with life itself.

Meditation corrects this discord by training a practitioner to sit completely inside time, not ahead of it or behind it. The ticking of the clock, the wind-blown loops of the mind, the corridors of breath and flickers of birdsong: The moment contains all of it and is all of it. In meditation, there’s expansion and dropping away, a recalibration of the self’s relationship to the self, and thus, to time. For 40 minutes — the length of the periods where I sit — I am no one. I have no name or responsibilities except to maintain an upright posture, breathe and let go.

Meditation practice centers are time-conscious places. Someone rings the bell when it’s time to sit down for meditation, to get up, work, eat or sleep. Students are supposed to follow the schedule completely, taking off their watches and listening instead for the timekeeper’s cues. Ironically, the tight schedule doesn’t feel tight. Following the schedule frees up energy that would normally go into entertaining preferences and exercising choice. The schedule becomes a strict but empathic teacher, revealing time’s flowing and easy nature when we harmonize with it.

I once heard someone ask my teacher, a student of Suzuki Roshi’s, “Can a Buddha be in a hurry?” He paused briefly, then answered: “Be in time. Not in front of it or behind it.” I’ve experienced meditation periods where I couldn’t rest, when I wanted the bell to ring, signaling the period’s end. And I’ve experienced periods where I felt something like sadness when the bell sounded — I wanted the pleasant state of settled stillness to continue. In both cases, meditation shows me that even if time does not appear to be on my side, it is inside me. And I am inside of it.

Now, when I feel myself push against time or pull it toward me, I stop what I am doing and imagine not the small, strict circles of a watch dial, but the enormous, planetary circling of the earth around the sun.

Anyone can do this.

You don’t have to call it meditation. You don’t have to go somewhere special or sit down on a cushion cross-legged. It doesn’t have to be 5 a.m. At any moment, wherever you are, if you feel like time is a barking dog nipping at your heels, just pause, close your eyes if it helps and breathe.

Let time find you, like an ocean finds a shore, washing up treasures at your feet.” Read full article here…

Colleen Morton Busch has eloquently described her relationship with meditation and her obvious love of meditation. Once you’ve stepped into that place, meditation becomes, not discipline, but a sense of expanding awareness, an experience that creates time.

 Finding time with meditation is letting go of your resistance to time and as the Yoga Vasistha says of time, “The inexorable passage of invisible and intangible time eats up all creatures. Knowing this, the wise keep their attention on the timeless.” Meditation is the path to the timeless.   

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Meditation can Heal You in Less than a Day

Meditation can heal you in less than a day, this what the data shows in research done by Yi-Yung Tang, of Dalian University of Technology in China, and Michael Posner, of the University of Oregon. Their research shows that meditation creates physiological changes in the brain in as little as 11 hours.

Meditation can heal you in Less than a Day

Meditation can heal you in Less than a Day

In what amounts to a revolution in science, recent discovers reveal that the human adult brain remains open to change during our full lifespan. How and what we think about creates and regulates a flow of energy and information, understanding this we then understand that the mind can change the brain. In other words, what and how we focus our attention and intention on, how we direct the flow of energy and information can directly affect the brain’s structure and activity.

In his post, Stephan Schwartz, explores this subject. He links the seemingly universal need to connect to something greater than ourselves to meditation, and meditation to science. Scientific studies verify that when compassion is practiced that the social circuits of the brain light up, which helps us to transform all our relationships, even the one we have with ourselves.

According to Stephan Schwartz:

“Of all the things that you can do to know yourself, nothing will serve you as well as developing the practice of meditation. Although meditation is often associated with Asian cultures, it is not Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Satanic or any faith at all. It can be done in the name of any of these faiths, or without faith in a religion — as distinct from a spiritual sense. Meditation is a single term defining many practices.

More than 1,000 papers have been published on meditation in the peer-reviewed literature between 2006 and 2009. There is not one meditation literature, but multiple branches to this literature in several disciplines, from physics to pastoral counselling, concentrating on everything from using meditation to end addiction, to symptom reduction in Fibromyalgia. Much of the research focuses on stress reduction, sleep problems and attention issues. But the emerging evidence on the lasting effects meditation has on our neuro-anatomy, and particularly our brains is, perhaps, the most fascinating research of all.

This work has documented a kind of deep “stillness” that affects the entire brain. When this occurs, the frontal and temporal lobe circuits — which track time and create self-awareness — seemingly disengage. The mind-body connection dissolves. These studies show us that the limbic system is responsible for assigning emotional values to persons, places, everything in our total life experience. Since the limbic system, among other things, regulates relaxation and ultimately controls the autonomic nervous system, heart rate, blood pressure and metabolism, it produces both emotional and physiological effects when you react to a specific object, person or place. This is why your hair “stands on end,” your skin “crawls,” your stomach “lurches” or your heart “beats faster.”

Because meditation affects the limbic system, developing the discipline allows one to become more volitionally in control of these responses. The practice has a calming effect that leaves us relaxed and physiologically more evenly regulated. This, in turn, allows us to be coherently focused, because we are less distracted by our inner dialogue and emotions as well as our physiological responses. And this literally changes your brain.

A team at the Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program, Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, headed by Sara Lazar, used MRI to scan the brains of long-term meditators to see if the physical structure of their brains really were different. In 2005, they reported their findings in Neuroreport:

“Brain regions associated with attention, interoception and sensory processing were thicker in meditation participants than matched controls, including the prefrontal cortex and right anterior insula. Between-group differences in prefrontal cortical thickness were most pronounced in older participants, suggesting that meditation might offset age-related cortical thinning. Finally, the thickness of two regions correlated with meditation experience. These data provide the first structural evidence for experience-dependent cortical plasticity associated with meditation practice.”

In 2009, at the Center for Functionally Integrative Neuroscience at Denmark’s Aarhus University, Peter Vestergaard-Pulsen led a team seeking to explore the effects of long term meditation on brain structure. They found, as they report in their paper, also in Neuroreport:

“Using magnetic resonance imaging, we observed higher gray matter density in lower brain stem regions of experienced meditators compared with age-matched nonmeditators. Our findings show that long-term practitioners of meditation have structural differences in brainstem regions concerned with cardiorespiratory control. This could account for some of the cardiorespiratory parasympathetic effects and traits, as well as the cognitive, emotional, and immunoreactive impact reported in several studies of different meditation practices.”

That same year, a research team at the Laboratory of Neuro Imaging, Department of Neurology, UCLA School of Medicine, publishing in Neuroimage, reported:

” … meditation practice has been shown not only to benefit higher-order cognitive functions but also to alter brain activity … meditators showed significantly larger volumes of the right hippocampus. Both orbito-frontal and hippocampal regions have been implicated in emotional regulation and response control. Thus, larger volumes in these regions might account for meditators’ singular abilities and habits to cultivate positive emotions, retain emotional stability, and engage in mindful behavior.” Read full story here…

Though the study by Yi-Yung Tang and Michael Posner shows that meditation can heal you in less than a day, even Mr. Schwartz believes that a person should commit to at least a nighty day program in order to affect lasting changes. His belief is that if a person practices meditation for ninety days, they will have established a regular practice.

So take a deep breath, sit and quiet your mind, take a break from your daily stress and overwhelm from multitasking and running on autopilot, and balance your brain and let the connections in your brain improve along with the connections others and yourself.

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Meditation Benefits: The three Elements of Meditation

The three elements of meditationlead us on our inward journey of self-realization.

The three Elements of Meditation

The three Elements of Meditation


Meditation begins with the breath. Breathing is always with us, whether we are meditating or not. From this place there is never a time when we are not meditating, only a time when we are unaware of it. Meditation is awareness. Meditation centers us in the present moment.

Meditation is a process that involves three important elements. The first is concentration, a place of inner focus. The second is an attitude of non-attachment, where our thoughts are left fleeting unable to disturb our awareness or gain energy. The third element is mindfulness, being fully present in this moment by awakening to our natural state of quietness, where awareness becomes aware of itself.

To deepen your practice of meditation you will want to practice each of these skills regularly.

Concentration

Concentration in meditation is without doing, it is creating awareness without judgment. There’s nothing mystical or spiritual about concentration, and like breathing we all do it in one form or another. It is a way of focusing the mind and applying thought to what is being done.  

Concentration is applying mind to what is felt, seen or thought without an effort to change a thing. It is when we rest our attention on one thing. The focus of our attention when developing a meditation practice can be a candle or Sri Yantra or mandala; more often it is the breath or a mantra.  

In the beginning concentration feels as if it is hard work and can be frustrating. There is, however, a difference between the type concentration we use to solve a problem and the focus we bring to meditation. Meditative concentration is the process of bring together all our scattered energies and letting them settle down, restoring a sense of wholeness.  

Whatever we choose to use as our focus of concentration, whether it’s the breath or a candle, it becomes the center of our attention. In the end the object of attention fills the mind and the energy of thought settles.

Non-attachment

Concentration is the process of letting go of distractions. Thoughts, emotions, sounds or sights in the environment can all disrupt concentration and when that happens, usually we react. And when we react we give energy to those disturbances. The easiest way to have them move out of our conscious awareness is to remain neutral and this is the practice.

Instead of trying to suppress the thoughts (an almost impossible task) we let go of our instinctual need to react to them. This is the process of non-attachment, allowing whatever thoughts that arise in the mind to pass as clouds pass through the sky, dissipating as they go.

The thoughts that distract us in meditation usually center on our cravings and desires. It is these objects of thought that not only disturb our meditation but our daily lives as well.  

Our craving and our moments of silent bliss come and go in meditation; non-attachment is the process of watching without trying to understand them. And when we do not give them new energy through continued attention, the power of these distractions is diminished, they leaves us without acquiring new power.

As the practice develops an experience of one-pointed concentration becomes part of our unconscious mind as well. We create a new samskaras (grooves in the mind) that support our meditation.

Concentration and non-attachment work together supporting each other allowing the other to deepen.

Mindfulness

As our practice of concentration and non-attachment grows there is a transformation that takes place in our awareness. As we become aware of the consistent mind chatter and begin to slowly step away from it, our mind begins to settle and we become aware of our natural state of silence and presence.

The Sanskrit translation of the term “mindfulness” is smriti, and it means ‘to bring to mind’ or ‘to bring to remembrance.’ In describing mindfulness Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn (developer of Mindfulness-based stress reduction) said, “Mindfulness can be cultivated by paying attention in a specific way, that is, in the present moment, and as non-reactively, non-judgmentally and openheartedly as possible.”

In the beginning your practice is a collection of developmental skills that support your practice, including your ability to:

  • Pay attention. In order to develop a mindful posture, you need to pay attention.
  • Present moment awareness. Remain in the present moment instead of fantasizing about the future or worrying about the past, or as Ram Dass put it, “Be here now.” This is ‘seeing’ things as they are, without judgment, being aware of things as they are now.
  • Non-reactivity is the ability to respond to your experiences rather than react to your thoughts. Reaction is automatic; response is with awareness.
  • Sensing your emotion is the process of becoming aware of the emotions that give rise to your thoughts.
  • Becoming non-judgmental. Letting go of judgment allows you to see things as they are instead of seeing thing through the filter of your conditioning. This, especially, includes the judgmental self-talk that is so often our inner companion, and allow the feelings of self-acceptance to wash in and fill the void.
  • Maintain concentration. Maintaining your focus keeps you from being carried away on a train of thoughts.
  • Being Openhearted. To be open-hearted is to be kind, compassionate to other as well as yourself. You cannot find the qualities of kindness and compassion outside of yourself, you must look within; and when you can see yourself with awareness as who you truly are, then you can be genuinely compassionate to others.

Meditation is not about self-enhancement but self-transcendence. To realize the self is the gift of meditation and the means to understand and experience the center of consciousness within.

The three elements of meditation, concentration, non-attachment and mindfulness, help us move along our inward journey of self-realization.

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Meditation Benefits: What is Meditation?

What is Meditation?

What is Meditation?

What is meditation? The word meditation has been misunderstood and used incorrectly, especially in the culture of the mass media. Meditation has come to mean everything from contemplating to daydreaming or fantasizing. In Yoga (Ashtanga Yoga) the word for meditation is dhyana and it is not contemplation or imagination.

Meditation is a specific practice that quiets the mind, taking us beyond our doubt, anxiety, judgments, in other words, beyond the prison of our mental conditioning. It is a state of consciousness beyond the ordinary waking state. Meditation is a means for understanding and experiencing the center of consciousness within.

Meditation is not a religion, though it plays a part in all the worlds’ wisdom traditions and is used to enrich the spiritual experience. Meditation is a science, which means it has defined principles, that there’s a specific process which is followed, and it produces results that can be verified.

The practice of meditation is the practice of clearing the mind, allowing it to become relaxed and inwardly focused. Meditation is a state of restful-awareness; your mind is clear, you are fully awake and aware, but your mind is not focused on the external environment or any of the events that are happening around you. You are cultivating an inner state that is one-pointed and still, so that the mind will slip into silence. When this stillness happens, and the mind falls silent and it no longer distracts you, your meditation deepens.

In this ‘modern’ age, we are not educated in how to look within; all our educational practices are focused on examining the external world. As a result we remain, mostly, unknown to ourselves, strangers to our true nature. Vast reaches of our mind go unknown, the deep reservoir of our unconscious (subconscious) mind remains a mystery and outside of our control. The result is confusion, doubt and disappointment, with these attributes often playing a major role in our lives. It’s been said that the whole of the body is in the mind but the mind (the intellect) is not in the whole of the body.  It is only through the awareness which arises in meditation that we can really develop control over the mind.

To reach the goal of meditation, which is to go beyond the mind and experience our essential nature, our biggest obstacle is our mind, which stands between us and pure awareness. This is the reason that it is often referred to as the ‘monkey mind,’ and why the practice of training the mind is compared to that of training a puppy. The mind resists any efforts to control it, because it seems that our mind has a mind of its own. It’s the uncontrolled mind that causes us to only experience daydreams, visions and fantasies instead of having the genuine experience of meditation.

The practice of meditation is the practice of stilling and calming yourself, releasing judgment and seeing things as they are. It is a way training the mind so that you won’t be caught up in its endless movement and distractions. Meditation is the process of systematically exploring your inner dimensions.     

Meditation is a commitment, you are committing yourself to a practice not a ritual or ceremony. Meditation is not about forcing the mind to be quiet (it really can’t be done that way); instead it is the process of letting go and discovering the quietness that is always present behind the screen of our internal dialogue. Meditation requires a certain discipline; there is a need for consistency. Meditation is like learning to play a musical instrument or paint a picture, if you want to reach the level where creativity can flow naturally through you; then you need to practice the techniques until you can let go of them.

Meditation is freedom from the endless noise and distractions inside your head. Meditation allows you to experience what is taking place around you without reacting. Meditation brings you the freedom to experience who you really are, free from all the mental activity, and you begin to experience inner contentment and joy.

This relief and respite from the hectic pace of everyday life is not an escape from the world but the foundation of inner peace. With practice you can begin bringing the attributes of meditation into your everyday activities, which allows you to move more effectively in the world. Applying the principles of meditation to the experiences that happen before you, you can become fully present to them, which gives you time to respond before reacting to them.

Meditation is very beneficial in that way; it exposes your unproductive habits and reflexes instead of acting them out and this leads to inner balance, harmony and freedom.

So what is meditation? It is the place where you remember your essential nature as centered, creative and peaceful, free to experience the joy of being fully present in this moment, NOW

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Meditation Benefits: Patience and the Practice of Meditation

Patience and the practice of meditation will equal consistency. And because every action has a reaction, it’s not possible to consistently practice and not receive benefits. However, those benefits may not be noticeable to you early on in your practice. This is where your patience comes in. You may not, in the beginning, notice the benefits, but gradually over time, because you are storing the samskaras (impressions) in your unconscious mind, the benefits will bloom to help you later. And because it takes time to notice the results be consistent, and most of all, gentle with yourself.

Meditation Benefits: Patience and the Practice of Meditation

Patience and the Practice of Meditation

Meditation is quietly looking inward, beyond the mind and discovering the different levels of your being, one after another. This process is personal and it is experiential, meaning that it can only grow out of practice and not by intellectual pursuits. This is important because you “need to do in order to be.”

In his article in the “times of India,” Sant Rajinder Singh notes that there are two ‘elements’ which make up the study and pursuit of spiritual (self-realization) teaching, Study and practice (he refers to study as theorizing). Singh warns against too much study and not enough practice.

As a way of illustrating the point he tells us a story of  Buddha and one of his disciples Malunkyaputta.

“While we must satisfy the mind and have our questions answered, we do not want to get trapped into mental wrangling, for that is like a spider web in which we may get stuck.

The Buddha spent 45 years teaching spiritual truths to enable people to break free of the karmic wheel of life that binds them to this world. Buddha was full of compassion and served humanity selflessly. The only time he did not tour was during the rainy season, when he stayed in one place. He gave all an equal chance to find the way to enlightenment.

So many questions

One day, a disciple, Malunkyaputta sought an interview with the Buddha. Malunkyaputta had a restless mind, that asked: “Is the world infinite or finite? Is the soul identical with the human body?” Since he was preoccupied with these questions, he could not meditate. He requested the Buddha to answer his questions failing which he would leave the order.

Buddha replied, “O Malunkyaputta, did I ever ask you to take up this path and did I promise you that I would answer these intellectual wranglings?” The disciple sheepishly replied, “No.” Buddha said, “Whoever worries about these meaningless speculations such as whether the world is infinite or finite, or whether the soul looks like the body, is taking away time from spiritual practice. It is just like someone who is shot by an arrow who instead of letting the doctor treat him to get out the poison starts saying, ‘I will not allow my wound to be treated until I know who is the man who shot me, what kind of person is he, is he tall or short, what type of bow and arrow did he use, or what colour is his skin.’ The key is to get treatment first. Similarly, if we say we will not do our spiritual practices until we get answers to these questions about whether the universe is eternal or not, and other such questions, then one may pass one’s whole life and never reach the spiritual goal.”

While in the Simsapa forest near Kosambi, Buddha was sitting with his disciples. He picked up a few leaves and asked his disciples, “What is your opinion? Which is more? Is it the few leaves in my hand, or the leaves in the forest around us?”

The disciples said, “You have very few leaves in your hand, while there are many more in the forest.” Buddha then told them, “It is the same with my teachings. Of everything I know, I have only told you a little. What I have not told you is much more, like the leaves in the forest. Why did I not tell you everything I know? The reason is that all that information is not useful. Information that will not lead to enlightenment, I have not told you. I have only told you that which you need to know to gain the spiritual experience and find salvation.”

Practise makes perfect

As we think about our own lives, many get involved in intellectual pursuits. But there comes a point when we find that the mind will never stop its wrangling. We have to discriminate which questions will help our spiritual progress and which ones are merely to satisfy the intellect’s curiosity. People who are steeped in the theoretical side of religion can spend years debating each point found in scriptural writings and never find any solution. It is far better to spend time in our spiritual practices so that we can rise above our limited intellect and come in contact with our soul. Then, we will not have to wonder about answers, for we will know them for certain and see them for ourselves. Our soul has all the answers; it is one with the Lord.” Read more…

In cultivating a meditation practice, how much and what technique you need to practice, will depend on your motivation. If you simply want a little less stress in your life, you don’t need to meditate three or four hours a day, on the other hand if you are seeking spiritual awakening, then ten minutes in the morning really isn’t going to cut it. This is where the “theorizing” come in, after determining your motivation you can begin to discover which meditation or combination of meditation practices fit your needs.    

No matter which technique(s) you decide upon, at first you will see progress in terms of feeling less stress, physically relaxed and emotionally calmer. As your practice progresses and depending, again on your intention, you may begin to notice subtle changes. At this stage some of the benefits of meditation will only make themselves known over time and are less dramatic.

With persistence, patience and the practice of meditation, you will discover a sense of freedom. Freedom from everyday worries and the freedom to experience the joy in this moment.

What is your motivation? What meditation techniques do you use, and do you need help determining what one fits your needs. You can share here.

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Meditation Benefits: Vipassana Meditation Brings Peace of Mind

Vipassana meditation brings peace of mind to the youth of India, at least around Mumbai, according to the Hindustan Times. Vipassana means “insight” in Pali, an ancient language of India. Vipassana is described as the essence of the teachings of Buddha, the experience of his teachings, because he attained the experience of the truth in meditation, so meditation is truly the essence of the teaching.

Vipassana Meditation Brings Peace of Mind

Vipassana Meditation Brings Peace of Mind

   

Vipassana is taught as a living practice of the Buddha’s teaching and it has been passed on for millennia. Vipassana as a technique is simplicity, is universally applicable and non-secular.

Vipassana is taught over a ten day period (though there are longer retreats) and is open to anyone that wants to practice this type of meditation. During this time the practitioner stays at the center, cutting all ties with the outside world. They are given instruction and told that refrain from all other activities such as reading, writing and, of course, any electronic devices are ‘turned off.’

While there is an open duologue with the meditation teacher, silence is observed between the participants. During the first three plus days the focus of practice is, appropriately enough, mental concentration, which is in preparation for formal meditation. Each day thereafter new practices or steps are introduced, until day ten when the silence ends. The tenth day is preparation for reentry into the everyday world, and the course end on the morning of the eleventh day.

The idea of meditating ten to twelve hours a day for days on end may seem a bit extreme to the uninitiated. In fact at the Vipassana centers around Mumbai, India, (as with all Vipassana centers) there is an evaluation process, like a doctors certificate, required to determine the fitness of the practitioner.

(For a detailed schedule of a ‘typical’ Vipassana retreat check out my post “The Benefits of Vipassana meditation.”)

But according to the Hindustan Times young people around Mumbai are embracing Vipassana meditation in order to relieve stress.

“Sujata Khanna, registrar, Pattana Vipassana Centre, Goregaon says that the number of people below the age of 30 who opt for Vipassana has increased noticeably in the past year. “While Vipassana was considered to be popular among the older crowd, we now find that the number of people below the age of 30 outnumber the senior crowd.”

She adds that during the vacation season, the ratio of women to men is higher: “Most come because they cannot handle the stress in their daily lives.”

Another reason for the youth to attend the intense retreat is to develop concentration skills that will help them in their studies and career.

“We always ask for a doctor’s certificate before they come, because Vipassana isn’t physically easy,” Khanna explains. “You have to sit for long hours and wake up very early, which is a big change from your usual routine. Some people do break down and cry, but a teacher is there to help them with the right techniques to deal with their situation. In fact, we’ve noticed almost 50 per cent of our young students come back.”

Advertising executive Labony Kaushal, 25, admits the only reason she thought of giving Vipassana a shot was to alleviate her boredom. “I was just tired of doing the same thing, and having nothing new in life to look forward to. I thought that 10 days of not talking to anyone would be good for me, since I’m not a very talkative person anyway.” Kaushal didn’t do any research before signing up, which she recommends for anyone who’s rolling the idea around in their head. “It’s not about religion; it’s an intense physical and mental experience because you’re just sitting and observing yourself. So, everybody’s experience is different.”

The first day, called Zero Day, is where an audio-visual explains the techniques of meditation to the new arrivals… and little else. “You expect someone to come up to you and tell you something, but you’re just sitting in one place, meditating. I got a headache on the first day, which is something they warn you of because your body is not used to it,” she recalls.

By the second day, Kaushal experienced a surge of energy, but admits the days dragged on. “I was doing a mental countdown to the end. And every day, it felt like I was running a never-ending race,” she says, adding, “But by the final day, I didn’t want to come back to Mumbai. And I definitely want to go back there soon.”

Ask Kaushal whether she’s noticed any permanent changes and she says, “ I was an angry person who’d react without thinking of the consequences, but I’ve become more patient now. I can feel a balance, though I would need to be in an extreme situation to test how powerful it is.”

Clinical psychologist and psychotherapist Seema Hingorrany admits she’s seen a substantial rise in the number of young patients opting for Vipassana, and cites stress as the main reason. “Patients between the ages of 22 to 30, who find that they cannot cope with the stress in their lives and the constant need to be in touch with people, take this step because Vipassana teaches you to detach yourself,” she says, adding, “Many of them are going through a break-up in their relationships, or have parents who are getting divorced. They listen to recommendations from friends or their spiritual guru, or have read up on the subject.”

Hingorrany says that she gets emails and calls from patients asking what the right age for Vipassana is, but she opines, “It’s not about being the right age, but having the right reason. If someone is emotionally disturbed or unbalanced, I wouldn’t recommend this intensive introspection because it might further upset the mental balance and cause you to crumble.”

For those who return from their retreat successfully, Hingorrany notices a change in their composition. “I’ve seen patients achieve a balance in body and mind.  Many reveal that their stress-related migraines and allergies disappear. And of course, they become emotionally stronger because they have enhanced their coping methods.” Read more…

The experience of Labony Kaushal is actually a common one. In the beginning most students find the meditation practice to seem more like torture instead of the deep inner peace they are seeking. They feel themselves very resistant to the forced timetable (like getting up at four or four thirty in the morning), the sparse facilities, instructions of the teacher, all the discipline and even the technique itself.

The big surprise for most of the students is, as it was for Kaushal, by the tenth day there’s the realization that Vipassana meditation brings peace of mind, that at some point the meditators slip into effortless effort, discover detached involvement and maintain a peaceful alertness.

My favorite books on Vipassana meditation are, “The Art of Living: Vipassana Meditation by William Hart” and “Insight Meditation: A Step-By-Step Course on How to Meditate by Sharon Salzberg.”

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Meditation Benefits: Dealing with Distractions in Meditation

Dealing with Distractions in Meditation is really an opportunity for practice. There are many types of distractions that arise during meditation, they can be a thought that catches your attention, sometimes they’re a sensation in the body or they can be noises in our environment.

Meditation Benefits: Dealing with Distractions in Meditation

Dealing with Distractions in Meditation

 

Elbert Hubbard an American writer and philosopher, was quoted as saying “Life is one damned thing after another,” and meditation is the practice of letting go of ‘one damn thing after another.’  

One of the first practices in mind-training is to bring your attention to a point of focus, witness the rising images and thoughts and then let go of the distractions. The problem is that in trying to ‘control’ your thoughts it is easy to get caught up in the idea that they are your adversaries.

About dealing with distraction and, seeing them as your adversaries, Zen master Wolfgang Kopp, expressed it this way, “many are of the opinion that once the evil intellect is suppressed, the ardently desired nirvana will automatically reveal itself. It cannot be stressed enough that this belief has not the least to do the true practice of Zen. The point is not to suppress thought, but rather to surpass it.”  

Distractions are not your enemy, you should treat them with the same kindness that you would your five year old who innocently wanders away from you. You find them, take them gently by the hand and lead them back to where they should be.

Speaking of children and distractions, Olivia Rosewood wrote a wonderful post about meditation, children and distractions. As parents of young children it can sometimes feel as if there are almost insurmountable obstacles to a peaceful meditation. Olivia notes how many of her friends, who are moms, become frustrated when they try to meditate because of the distractions and interruptions created by their young children.

Here are Olivia’s amusing thoughts and insights on meditation and distractions, beginning with…    

“…Eckhart Tolle espouses the simple yet profound encouragement to “allow what is without resistance.”

In fact, Eckhart has spoken at length about meditation practice and children. His most poignant recommendation, from my point of view, is not to yell harshly at your child when they interrupt your meditation practice. You are sitting quietly on your silk pillow, breathing, perhaps repeating a mantra silently. A child bursts in the room screaming and tackles you. How do you react? Scold? Ignore? Hug?

A meditation practice is just that: practice. Practice for what? Practice for life. It is practice for dealing with life as peacefully and receptively as possible, not just superficially, but on the inside, too. So if your child interrupts your practice, it’s no longer practice, it becomes real. Therefore hug the child, love the child, and if you can, resume your practice afterward. If you can’t resume your practice, whether it is energy cultivation or silent sitting, then practice is over and the game is on. How loving, receptive, and calm can you be in real life? Can you have boundaries without being reactive or emotionally volatile? Can you bring the principles of a meditative practice into your parenting style?

On my second trip to India, my meditation teacher felt it was in my best interest to sit in the basement of the ashram for several hours a day first in a mantra practice, and then sitting in silence. This kind of meditation is my idea of sheer heaven: the peace, the depth, the inner quiet are so blissful. Except that just outside of the ashram was a graveyard, and wandering that graveyard shouting out prayers to Shiva for his own personal reasons until sunset was a devoted older man gifted not only with loud voice that carried well, but also gifted with a bullhorn. It was through that bullhorn that he shouted his prayers to Shiva. One early morning, I wandered out to this gentleman in the graveyard and asked him why he shouted, and why the bullhorn? He told me that Shiva was more likely to hear him if he was as loud as possible. He said it with the sweetest smile that I realized there was nothing more for us to talk about. He was on a sincere mission, and I loved his devotion to it. “I understand. Thank you. I know Shiva will hear you.” I told him.

Directly on the other side of the little ashram was a wedding celebration center. In India, weddings can last as long as five days, and they are serious about their celebration. They are beautiful, ornate, full of joy, and constantly accompanied by dancing music. I learned that many Indian newlyweds love to have Celine Dion and Cher alternately played all day and night through surprisingly high-tech speakers that seem to penetrate thick walls — as though they don’t even exist.

Sitting in meditation in the basement of the ashram, my friend blasting his prayers to Shiva on one side, and a very happy bride and groom with all of their loved ones pleasantly rocking out to “I’m Alive” and then “My Heart Will Go On,” I experienced a deep surrender. As soon as I let go of resisting the sounds around me, I not only stopped giving them attention, but they disappeared deeply into the background, passing through my awareness like a cloud passes peacefully through a sky. It was such a relief to stop resisting what was unchangeable. (Well, perhaps I could have changed it, but that would have required great effort. And I had no desire to rain on anyone else’s beautiful journey.)

It’s since then that I can meditate no matter the noise level. And now that I, too, have children who like to be children, this “allowing” really comes in handy” Read more..

You may not have learned to meditate while being blasted from one side with prayers to Shiva or distracted by wedding music on the other. Yet anybody who has tried to sit it quiet solitude, even if they were sitting in a cave in the wilderness, as had to deal with distractions in meditation.  

Meditation, as Olivia points out, is a practice and it’s a gentle practice, so if you face a thousand distractions, whether in the mind, the body or the environment, like the young child you gently return to your meditation a thousand times, without judgment.

With the consistency of practice you will naturally let go of trying to control your mind, as you strive for stillness, and as Sally Kempton said, “simply let it be.” The paradox is that when that happens you will be able to deal with all the distractions in your meditation.

Please share  your thoughts on meditating with distractions, what works for you.

 

I wanted to share with you Olivia’s video on silent meditation practice.

Please Meditate Part 5

Please meditate. You can try it at a sidewalk cafe while you wait for your lunch to be served. Simply stop thinking and feel the peace of being wash over you. Be stillness amidst hustle and bustle. Experts agree that meditation is as essential to overall health as good diet and regular exercise.

Here’s a another way you can help.

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Meditation Benefits: Deepak Chopra on Happiness and being present

The last piece of advice given to Deepak, by his Abbot, The Venerable Arjarn Ekachai, at the end of his two weeks of a “monk’s journey” in Thailand, was advice that Deepak wanted to share with us all.

"monk's journey" in Thailand

"Monk's journey" in Thailand ~ Photo Gotham Chopra

Here’s the piece of advice that the Abbot gave to Deepak, “The only moment that never ends is now. The most important activity in your life is what you are doing now. The most important people in your life are the ones you are with now. And the most important way to create the future is to be present now.”

When we are present in this moment life will consistently reward us. When we see in the present moment, we won’t miss the beauty, when we taste in this moment, flavor will be our reward, when we are fully present to the sound we will feel the music in our soul, when we are present to the aroma the scent will become sense, and when we are present to touch we will know that we are alive. That is the power of the present moment.

Being in the present moment we enter the timeless and we arrive at the true nature of our being.

Does this all sound esoteric? Well, in fact it’s very real and practical. All meditative practices, from mantra meditation to mindfulness, seek presence, either as deep inner awareness or being wholly present in the moment.

Before a thought arises in the mind we are in a timeless state and in this timeless state we need no, nor do we seek any, reason to be happy, we just are. This is the true state of happiness and our birth right.

When we are dependent on, people, positions, places or things to make us happy, then our happiness becomes conditional and bound to those people, positions, places or things. When our happiness is dependent on the world outside of us it can be taken away from us at any moment because the nature of the universe is change.

Bliss is defined as happiness that needs no reason, and the wisdom traditions came to the conclusion that time is the movement of consciousness, not far from Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity (Some physicists argue that there is no such thing as time). In consciousness time has a ‘flow,’ often described as the ‘arrow of time,’ but that flow is subjective and personal.

When we focus on the present we are attuning ourselves with our deepest reality and that this level happiness can never be taken away.

This focus on our true nature, or being present in the moment, doesn’t mean giving up participation in the everyday world; it simply means giving up attachment to it. Letting go of attachment is not becoming aloof, or detached from the world, it’s allowing the world to be as it is, the wonderful, the good, the bad and the ugly, without identifying with it or losing sight of your eternal nature.    

Ram Dass, in the title of his iconic book, “Be Here Now,” said it all. And in his book, “The Ultimate happiness Prescription,” Deepak said it again with one of his favorite sayings, “being here is enough.”  Deepak explained it this way:

“When people hear this, particularly successful people whose lives are full of projects and accomplishments, they look confused. To them, “being here” sounds passive and empty. Yet think about it. As they pursue lives that are so full of activity and goals, most people are not fulfilling their being. Quite the opposite. They are running away from a deep-seated fear that life is empty unless you constantly fill it up.”

Our ego drives our need to identify with people, positions, places and things, starting as children we begin our attachment and identification with our toys, and as we grow we continue to identify with the changing world, and to us this is the ‘real world.’ Yet, we live in two realities. The reality of the time bound is the reality created by the ego, and it’s thought be, by most of us as the only reality, but for some, the invisible world is the primary reality out of which all other realities are created; realities which arise out of every moment of now.  

Experiencing presence and ‘being here now’ are the same and no effort is required to enter. And as Deepak puts it, “Easy come, easy go” actually has a deep spiritual meaning. What comes and goes isn’t the real you. The real you is the bliss that exists beyond time.”

In This video, recorded at TEDMED 2010, Deepak speaks on the subject of happiness and being present, NOW.

Enjoy.

Deepak Chopra at TEDMED 2010