Meditation Benefits: Duck don’t do Anger

Meditation Benefits: Duck don’t do Anger

Meditation Benefits: Duck don’t do Anger

There’s a story told in meditation circles used to illustrate how meditation helps us deal with a very human emotion; anger. The story, I like to describe as, ‘ducks don’t do anger,’ tells how two ducks fighting over a piece of bread, after a short bit of angry nipping at each other, are able to just swim away, and unlike their human observers aren’t holding a grudge, feeling resentment or feeding their anger.

Anger is part of being human and it’s hardwired into our reptilian brain, it comes from our ego state, that part of us that needs us to feel secure and safe. In order to deal with anger we must find the underlying cause. Anger can rise out of fear, pain, sorrow; anger can be a cry for attention or help, it may be an expression of grief, loneliness or a desire for love.

In the end we have to own our anger and more importantly the root cause and in order to own it, we need to acknowledge it and not try and repress it. The questions arise, can meditation help us embrace this shadow side of our humanness and if so how?

Meditation is a practice of awareness and when we sit in meditation we start to become present with those parts of who we are, even those parts which we’ve repressed, hidden from, the darker side of our nature.

Unpleasant as unearthing these thoughts, feeling and emotions are, as long as we continue to repress them, the more they will rise up and make themselves known. Meditation opens a doorway allowing us to see what the real emotions are hiding behind it. Meditation invites us in to witness the anger, and in that process of witnessing anger, begin to evaporate it.

Ram Dass describes this process as ‘making friends with anger,’  a place from which he no longer identifies with it, he said it this way, in the Shapiro’s new book, “Be the Change,” “I still see anger arise, even after thirty years of meditating. But now, when it does, I can say, ‘Hello old friend’ and invite in for a cup of tea.”  He went on to say, “Meditation has helped to overcome the more negative places, like anger, because it gives me the chance to bring together my identification with my awareness.”

Anger unchecked can do untold damage both on an individual level and on the wider level of our collective consciousness. When anger is repressed it can transform into hatred, a transformation that occurs when we feel we’ve been especially wronged.

It’s natural to feel greater justification for this kind of anger, as well as, in situations where we see injustice. And in situations where find gross inhumanity, it becomes possible to transform angry passion into acts of compassion. This, however, can be a slippery slope, because justification can, also, become rational, and rational can be used to justify irrational acts.

It’s this level of anger that creates enemies and is ultimately the rational for violence. So, how do we move from anger and hatred of our enemies, to a place, if not of love, at least of tolerance?     

Deepak Chopra offers us this analysis of the problem from his blog post, “How to Love Your Enemies (Really).”  

Deepak Chopra

Deepak Chopra

1. Anger is a natural emotion, but when it turns to hatred, a natural emotion becomes distorted. Anger is bottled up and feeds on itself. Ideas of revenge, retribution and violence build up over time. People who have injured, opposed or offended you start to turn into enemies.

2. The rationale for hating an enemy can become quite complex and convincing. Long-held grudges always tell a story in which the wronged party is in the right. But behind these rationales the fuel is bottled-up anger.

3. Even when someone commits a horrendous offense against you, which would seem to justify seeking revenge, you are doing harm to yourself by harboring built-up anger. This insight, which is hard for many people — and nations — to arrive at, is key.

4. Once you see that the problem is built-up anger, and that anger is irrational and destructive, there is an incentive to release it. An emotional debt to the past creates suffering in the present. In cases where horrible crimes have been committed, the higher goal is to seek justice, not revenge. The two aren’t the same thing.

5. Paying old emotional debts can be done in various ways. A person can begin to cross the divide, talking to his enemy and realizing that both share a common psychology. Empathy can be cultivated. Letting go of pride and ego is worth pursuing. Yet much of this letting go happens only at the mental level, which isn’t adequate to the hot, violent feelings being held inside. In fact, when anger management training brings up old hostility without giving a way to release it, attempts at controlling anger fail miserably.

6. Releasing the hot, violent energy of anger can be done. Under the rubric of “energy work,” there are now many practitioners in this area. If that seems too arcane, it needn’t. Sit down and revisit a memory that arouses your anger. Generally these are memories where you feel that an injustice has been committed against you. Your mind is filled with reasons for how you were wronged. Now pause and feel the actual energy of your anger. Your body may be tense, your skin warm, breathing ragged, heartbeat increased. The physical side of anger is the key to releasing it, because rationales go on forever. They are all-consuming and self-consuming at the same time.

7. Once you have contacted the physical side of anger, there is a pivotal moment. If you express your anger by acting it out, mentally or physically, none of the energy will be released. Feeling your anger and expressing it still holds the energy inside. You must want the anger to go, which can be tricky. Like every strong emotion, anger believes in itself; it wants to stick around and keep telling you its story. To get past this allure, stop paying attention to the story and the rationales attached to it. Instead, focus on making the angry energy leave. This may require an experienced guide, because the pivotal moment is psychologically slippery. Read more…

In meditation, because we develop a greater sense of self-awareness, we have the opportunity to see anger as it is, with all its recurring patterns of thought and its waves of shadow energy, and make ‘friends with it.’ It is from this quiet space of self-reflection that we can begin to accept ourselves for who we are.   

Meditation is not a panacea; will we will be instantly be transformed into beings of light and love because we’ve practiced sitting on the cushion? No.   Meditation’s benefit is that it allows us to be honest and accepting of ourselves as we are and it’s that awareness which carries with it the power of real transformation.

Meditation Benefits: Meditate in a Minute

Meditation Benefits: Meditate in a Minute

Meditation Benefits: Meditate in a Minute

Because the only real moment is ‘Now’ and the only time we can truly be meditating is ‘Now’ then it makes sense that either we are meditating in this moment or we aren’t. Even if it took us nineteen minutes to arrive at the moment when we slipped into meditation, the transition was instant; we crossed the event horizon into the silence.

If then we can eliminate the first nineteen minutes and slip immediately into meditation, string a number of the silent minutes together (even if they are at different times during the day), then we can receive the same benefit that we gained in the longer session, at least that‘s the theory behind the idea of being able to meditate in a minute.

So, is there any real benefit to meditating for a minute? In his book, “One-Moment Meditation,” Martin Boroson makes a very compelling case for this very concept.

According to Boroson, all too often “we think that peacefulness takes a lot of time, or that it will come only in the future, we are focusing on becoming peaceful rather than being peaceful.” This goes to the heart of meditation, which is to get out of our heads where we are either focusing on the past or thinking about the future, instead of being in the ‘Now.’

The Spiritual teacher J. Krishnamurti said, “It’s now or never,” and what he met was, beingonly happens in the present moment and not that this is your only chance. In fact that’s what meditating in a minute is all about, that you have a chance in every moment to “be here now” and become fully present.

J. Krishnamurti

J. Krishnamurti

In her article, Elena Brower faced explaining this concept to her mother and that resulted in her sharing her thoughts on this process with us. Here’s Elena to share her thoughts and her “lightning-fast meditation” to help balance our heads…

“Lightning-fast meditation to balance your head and your heart — an actual, factual balance. Right now, as you read, feel how much energy it’s taking to read and process these words in your brain.

Now bring an equal amount of attention down into your heart. Even though we read and compute first with our minds, play with this for a few seconds. Close your eyes and feel the resonance in your heart as equal to the resonance in your mind.

Why is this so difficult to do?

We all have a much easier time living in our minds than in our hearts. I watched a super smart woman today literally fight herself to stay present to her heart’s voice instead of her mind, and she couldn’t hold that space for more than one moment at a time. Our tendency as humans, simply, is to live in our minds..”.

“…Whenever the heart closes because of doubt, judgement, fear, dread or shame, the mind steps in to make sense of it, to deftly shift the conversation to something else. All of our energy ends up there in the brain, draining the rest of our body of energy needed for listening, praying, helping, giving or sharing — all absolute requirements for healing.

So it’s about the mind and heart together, on the same page. Let’s get down to the meditation.

One practice, one minute to even out the resonance [the velocity, the intensity] of both the heart and the mind.

Sense the moment when you’ve arrived at an even energy in the two spaces. That “balanced” feeling lasts only briefly, but with practice, that sensation can be prolonged, and will be healing for your whole being. And everyone close to you.

One minute now. Take a few healing breaths and smile, be still here for just one minute. As you finish reading this sentence, soften your eyes, and make your heart as big, as active, as alive, as open and as receptive as your brain.

Feel how much softer it is in your heart now?

Your mission, should you choose to accept it: Bring this evenly open, softer state to both mind and heart, no matter what the context, no matter how vexing or crazy it seems in front of you, and watch as the confusion abates, everything gets quieter, because you’re in your heart. Watch how you begin to feel more abundant. I dare you.” Read more…

That we can only find balance now, in the present moment, it also means that it doesn’t take time at all, that balance doesn’t happen over time; it happens in this moment. Meditation is always available to you and possible at any time.

As Martin Boroson point out, this approach can be thought of as going straight to the point and that if you are going to meditate and you can only do it now, you might as well get right to it. He also makes clear, and this is important, that this practice is not met to replace other forms of meditation. When you learn to meditate in a minute, mastering the moment, then you will have developed a skill that will greatly enhance all your meditative practices.

Meditation benefits: Four Types of Meditation used by Deepak Chopra

All meditation is a search for the unconditioned level of awareness. In his search for this level of awareness, Deepak Chopra says he uses four types of meditation in his everyday practice. Each style of meditation, when practiced on its own or in conjunction with one of the others is capable of taking the mind out of its restless, agitated state while leading it towards a higher state of awareness.

In the video below Deepak discusses the four different meditation practices he uses and what their benefits are.

The four types of meditation that Deepak is referring to are Transcendence, Divine Attitudes, Self-reflection and Self-regulation.

The first of the four types of meditation is Transcendence which is reached, in this particular method, by means of a mantra or the repletion of a Divine word or phrase.

 In mantra meditation the mind is kept occupied with a sound that competes with your thoughts; this allows the mind to settle down which, eventually, will take you to a place where there is no mantra or thoughts.

In the wisdom traditions, from which meditation originated, reality was understood to flow from the source, moving from the subtler levels of creativity to the grosser level of physicality. This route of creation, which moves from stillness and silence into the subtle levels of the mind, through thoughts, emotions and sensations, finally arriving at, and creating through perception, the solid object of the material world.

Meditation is the practice of retracing this path, leaving the world of the material first and then slipping beyond thoughts, emotions and sensations, arriving back at the ground state of creation, stillness and silence.     

Meditation is a process that develops and grows over time, with repetition being considered to be the quickest way to calm the mind. And mantra can be repeated, silently or out loud, in a formal meditation or at any time during the day. By repeating the mantra the mind is released from its habitual and negative thought patterns, as Deepak says, “it’s going beyond the body and the mind.”

The second meditation practice that Deepak talks about is, “remembering the experience of love,” or “Divine attitudes.” In the remembering the experiences of love will awaken the limbic system and ‘evoke specific neurotransmitters and self-regulation mechanisms.’

The practice is to stay with the feelings of love, empathy, gratitude, joy, forgiveness, compassion and equanimity; these are the ‘Divine attitudes,’ that take us out of our ‘separate selves.’

In remembering joy we are remembering the peak experiences in life; experiences that take us beyond our individuated selves. When we feel Empathy, we are feeling someone else’s pain and in feeling compassion we feel their pain and have the desire to help alleviate it.

Equanimity, which from a spiritual perspective encompasses the Divine attitudes, is described as a state of mental or emotional stability or composure arising from a deep awareness and acceptance of the present moment. The Bhagavad Gita teaches that equanimity is a balance and centeredness that endures through all change, and is achieved through meditation.

In Buddhism equanimity is the conscious realization of the transience of material reality and is the ground for wisdom and freedom and the protector of compassion and love.

Creating the feelings of equanimity or compassion can be accomplished by evoking thoughts or images of Buddha, Jesus or any other figure that embodies the feelings of those qualities that you are seeking to recreate in your own heart. 

The third process or meditation is Self-reflection. Self-reflection, as a meditation, is a process of contemplation, which is practiced by asking and reflecting on questions that are fundamental. Questions I think of as ‘soul questions,’ such as, ‘who am I,’  ‘what do I want,’ ‘what is my purpose,’ ‘how can I serve,’ or what are my relationships like and how can I contribute to them?’

This Self-reflection meditation is the meditation of archetypes; it’s the practice of embodying the qualities of the mythic logical archetypes in consciousness. The emphasis in Self-reflection meditation, being on the qualities of the archetypes, while the emphasis in the “Divine attitudes” meditation, is on the feelings of archetypes.

 Archetypes help us understand and define who we are and they allow us to get in touch the god or goddess inside of ourselves.    

The archetypes can be from mythology or they can be from real life, for example Martin Luther King Jr., (who himself evoked the archetype of Mahatma Gandhi), Jesus, Mohammad, Buddha or anyone who reaches greatness, beyond daily life, by tapping into the collective consciousness.     

The process is to ask the ‘soul questions’ and evoke the answers by embodying your archetype while connecting with the collective consciousness in the field of stillness and silence.

The fourth type of meditation is Self-regulation. A Practice known to the ancient yogis is body regulation, which is accomplished through the use of intention when in the field of silence.

This practice of Self-regulation through body awareness, known in science as, the psychosomatic process and mechanism of visceral sensory psychobiology, defined as interoception, and is understood to be how consciousness influences bodily functions, including the effects of the input on cognitive functions, behavior and emotion.

From the yogis’ point of view, body regulation is how they see their interior world. In the beginning the practitioner simply becomes aware of their interior, perceiving their heart, lungs, all their internal organs and then after a time can, through intention, begins to control them.   

Deepak believes, by practicing Self-regulation a person can restore wholeness and homeostasis or balance to the body-mind, and by practicing these four types of meditation, that not only would we be healthier but we would gain a deeper sense of spirituality.

Meditation Benefits: The Ego and Healthy Self-esteem

Meditation Benefits: The Ego and Healthy Self-esteem

Meditation Benefits: The Ego and Healthy Self-esteem

It is the nature of the ego to attempt to stay in control of that which is completely uncontrollable, life. The ego, I believe, evolved as the mental counterpart of the fight-flight response, there to protect us from real or perceived threats.  

It’s the ego that gives us such a strong sense of self and when ego ‘feels’ unthreatened a positive and healthy self-esteem arises and fills us with confidence and purpose. When, on the other hand, the ego feels threatened then the negative aspects make an appearance, greed, jealousy and selfishness, and we begin to feel unworthy and unlovable. This is when the sense of self is out of balance.

There is almost no limit to the damage an out of control ego can do; on an individual level there is arrogance, abuse of power, making us feel like a prisoner, trapped within ourselves. When a collective ego is offended it can have horrific consequences.

The ego creates the ‘me’ through identification with possessions or positions, the ego identifies with the personality and the body, the ego sets limits and creates boundaries, it’s the ego that creates the illusion of a separate ‘self,’ defining where ‘I’ end and the ‘outside world’ begins.

The ego always experiences its self in comparison to others, as a mirror with a somewhat distorted reflection. Never feeling quite equal, either feeling a little bit superior or inferior and makes judgments accordingly; this person is friendly this one needs  to be watched.

As one of my teachers, Dr. David Simon, put it, “the ego is perpetually prepared to be offended.”

The true self simply see what is, without judgment, seeing everything and everyone as equal to itself. The true self transcends the ego. One of the analogies that I think best illustrates the relationship between the ego-self and the true-self, is one that meditation teacher, Sally Kempton, gave in her new book, “Meditation for the Love of It.”  Sally said:

 “The ego bares the same relationship to the Self as does a light bulb to the electrical current coursing through it. The blub looks as if it gives the light independently, but in fact it doesn’t. It is just a container. The true source of illumination is the electrical current that runs through the bulb.”          

“In the same way, it is the Self that gives energy to the ego and enables the ego to perform its function of making you think that the boundaries it sets is the real you.”

As Sally points out later, we do need the ego, it does have a function to serve, it create our sense of individuality and it is not our enemy to be eliminated, its simply limiting. To go beyond this limited perception of the world we need to transcend the ego, to experience the true Self.

The Yoga Vasishtha sees the ego as an illusion and the Self as the true reality:

“Egotism is but an idea based on a false association of the self with the physical element. In reality, this egotism does not exist anymore than water exists in a mirage.”  

And the Yoga Vasishtha explains that in transcendence there is freedom:

“As and when one turns away from the notion of “I” and the “world,” one is liberated; the notion of “I am this” is the sole bondage here.”

 This ‘liberation’ arises when we see the ego as it is, a continually inflating and deflating, ever-changing relationship to other egos, and rest in the ever-present Self.

In the video below Eckhart Tolle answers a question about how life can be more pleasant if we have healthy self-esteem, when the ego is feeling ‘unoffended,’ but in the end, freedom comes through transcendence.     

Eckhart Tolle – Healthy Self Esteem

Read More

Your life is about constant change, in fact everything in life changes and shifts. You grow old, people come and go and your circumstances change. And through it all, your ego changes and reacts, defending and bolstering its position. The Self, that part of you that is pure awareness, never goes anywhere; it’s the same now as it was when you were a child, a teenager or any other stage in your life.  As you move through life the Self is always with you, it is the presence as the awareness that lets you experience all of life.  

It is easier to experience pure awareness during silent meditation, without all the distractions of daily life, but the Self underlies all thinking and is always with us. We can contact the Self by simply focusing on the gap between thoughts, and in that gap we can drop into unbounded consciousness. When we come from this place of pure awareness then our ego feel unthreatened and a sense of healthy self-esteem naturally arises.

Meditation Benefits: Deepak Chopra’s Xbox 360 meditation game – Wii

Deepak Chopra has once again entered the virtual world this time in the form of a new Xbox 360 meditation game. This is not Deepak’s first time in the gaming world, though this is the most ambitious partnering.

Deepak Chopra’s Xbox 360 meditation game

~ Deepak Chopra unveils Leela ~ Diane Bondareff/Associated Press:

 

Video gaming has often received bad press because of the violent nature of some of the games. Yet, there are many benefits to gaming, such as teaching empathy. According to Dr. Kourosh Dini a Chicago-based psychologist, “One of the big things about many games is you’re interacting with other people in such a way that you have to actively think about what the other people are doing or thinking in order to either play against them or play them cooperatively…”

Another benefit of playing video games is that they have been shown to improve cognitive health. Gaming requires players to follow rules, make quick decisions and complete numerous tasks, so it’s no wonder that it sharpens mental skills.  Arthur Kramer from University of Illinois recently found that the “Rise of Nations strategy” game improved specific cognitive skills, such as short-term memory, in adults in their over 60.

It should be noted here that just playing video games doesn’t automatically guarantee improved cognitive abilities. While gaming can be good mental exercise, to improve your cognitive health you still need physical exercise, good nutrition and stress management.

Deepak Chopra’s new ‘Leela’ game will tic two of the four boxes to improve cognitive health, mental exercise and stress management. Jeffrey Van Camp at Digital trends asks the question, “does a game like Leela have a chance at success?” here’s Jeffrey to discuss the game and address the question…

“Do violent games stress you out? Would you like to meditate to a soothing video game after a long day’s work? If so, spiritual guide Deepak Chopra and THQ may have a game for you. Called Leela, a word that means “play” in Sanskrit, the game uses Microsoft’s Kinect or the Wii Remote to combine the world of games with breathing and meditation exercises, reports the AP.

Xbox 360 meditation game

Xbox 360 meditation game

 

“I personally believe that you can accelerate neural development and biological evolution through video games,” said Chopra. “Unfortunately, that’s not what we’re doing right now. What we’re doing is creating addictions to violence, adrenaline and mindlessness, rather than mindfulness. That was my personal motivation to get involved in this medium.”

The game will use the Kinect sensors to guide users through the seven “chakras,” or points along the body that many believe serve as a body’s energy centers. Somewhat like Wii Fit or other games like Flower, Leela will have minigames that get more difficult over time, but it will not have scores or other competitive aspects. Instead, it will be more about learning how to better do the exercises and enjoy the soothing visuals and music. In one exercise called the “root chakra,” players must tilt their hips to seed a plant on the screen. The “heart chakra” has players use their hands to direct fireballs that destroy rocks to release hidden gems.

If this sounds strange, it is. THQ had a difficult time converting Chopra’s idea into anything resembling an entertaining game. ”We wanted to make sure each of the movements was fun and replayable,” said Peter Armstrong, director of product development at THQ. “That’s why we did more than 500 prototypes. We took the teachings and tried to boil them down. We would show those to Deepak and some of his experts, but there were several instances where they just didn’t work. They just didn’t quite fit the meaning of that chakra.”

But does a game like Leela have a chance at success? Its biggest problem may be its hybrid nature. Regular Xbox or Wii gamers may not be interested in a meditation game, while Chopra’s followers may not own a video game system. With console prices as high as $400, plus the price of the game, only the most devoted may spend the money to pick this up. Still, it will be fun to see what Chopra’s mediation practices are all about.

“It’s all doable now,” said Chopra. “We just have to bring it all together. If we can measure what’s happening in your body, your heart, your emotions, your breath and your mind, then there’s no reason why we can’t create a new generation of video games that can help accelerate the personal, psychological, emotional and spiritual development of human beings.”   Click here to visit the original source of this post

There are many other benefits found in playing video games, for example gaming is used to treat post-traumatic syndrome and to enhance mood. The list goes on, everything from better hand-eye coordination to imagination boost, so it would seem, it’s not playing video games that can have a negative influence on the player, it’s what video games are played.

I mentioned at the beginning of this piece that the Xbox 360 meditation game was not Deepak’s first adventure into the virtual world; in fact Deepak as always embraced the cutting edge in technology when it comes to sharing his passion, meditation. His first real ‘journey’ into gaming, “Journey to Wild Divine,” uses biofeedback technology, and is advertised as a “meditation adventure for the mind and body.”  Having used, and thoroughly enjoyed, ‘Wild Devine’ I can say honestly that I’m looking forward to the November 8th release of Leela for the Xbox 360 and Wii.    

“In the midst of movement and chaos keep stillness inside of you.”

~ Deepak Chopra ~

A Healthy Brain is one of the Benefits of Meditation

 

A Healthy Brain is one of the Benefits of Meditation

A Healthy Brain is one of the Benefits of Meditation

New research is showing that a healthy brain is one of the benefits of meditation, that’s the finding in a study by a group of researchers at UCLA, who used high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to scan the brains of people who meditate. In the over the last ten years the scientific community’s interest in meditation as grown exponentially, and a 2005 study showed that meditators had thicker cortical walls those who didn’t meditate. Thickness in the cortical walls is associated with decision making, memory and attention.

Another reason meditation is linked to a healthy brain is aids in the development of neuroplasticity. In a study led by neuroscientist Richard Davidson, at the University of Wisconsin, has shown that long time meditators are able to control their reactiveness and their thoughts.

In the article, “How to build a bigger brain,” by Mark Wheeler, science is once again showing another benefit of meditation for the brain. Here I’ll let the author speak for himself. Enter mark Wheeler…

“Push-ups, crunches, gyms, personal trainers — people have many strategies for building bigger muscles and stronger bones. But what can one do to build a bigger brain?

Meditate.”

Brain Scan of a Meditator

Brain Scan of a Meditator

That’s the finding from a group of researchers at UCLA who used high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to scan the brains of people who meditate. In a study published in the journal NeuroImage and currently available online (by subscription), the researchers report that certain regions in the brains of long-term meditators were larger than in a similar control group.

Specifically, meditators showed significantly larger volumes of the hippocampus and areas within the orbito-frontal cortex, the thalamus and the inferior temporal gyrus — all regions known for regulating emotions.

“We know that people who consistently meditate have a singular ability to cultivate positive emotions, retain emotional stability and engage in mindful behavior,” said Eileen Luders, lead author and a postdoctoral research fellow at the UCLA Laboratory of Neuro Imaging. “The observed differences in brain anatomy might give us a clue why meditators have these exceptional abilities.”

Research has confirmed the beneficial aspects of meditation. In addition to having better focus and control over their emotions, many people who meditate regularly have reduced levels of stress and bolstered immune systems. But less is known about the link between meditation and brain structure.

In the study, Luders and her colleagues examined 44 people — 22 control subjects and 22 who had practiced various forms of meditation, including Zazen, Samatha and Vipassana, among others. The amount of time they had practiced ranged from five to 46 years, with an average of 24 years.

More than half of all the meditators said that deep concentration was an essential part of their practice, and most meditated between 10 and 90 minutes every day.

The researchers used a high-resolution, three-dimensional form of MRI and two different approaches to measure differences in brain structure. One approach automatically divides the brain into several regions of interest, allowing researchers to compare the size of certain brain structures. The other segments the brain into different tissue types, allowing researchers to compare the amount of gray matter within specific regions of the brain.

The researchers found significantly larger cerebral measurements in meditators compared with controls, including larger volumes of the right hippocampus and increased gray matter in the right orbito-frontal cortex, the right thalamus and the left inferior temporal lobe. There were no regions where controls had significantly larger volumes or more gray matter than meditators.

Because these areas of the brain are closely linked to emotion, Luders said, “these might be the neuronal underpinnings that give meditators’ the outstanding ability to regulate their emotions and allow for well-adjusted responses to whatever life throws their way.”

What’s not known, she said, and will require further study, are what the specific correlates are on a microscopic level — that is, whether it’s an increased number of neurons, the larger size of the neurons or a particular “wiring” pattern meditators may develop that other people don’t.

Because this was not a longitudinal study — which would have tracked meditators from the time they began meditating onward — it’s possible that the meditators already had more regional gray matter and volume in specific areas; that may have attracted them to meditation in the first place, Luders said.

However, she also noted that numerous previous studies have pointed to the brain’s remarkable plasticity and how environmental enrichment has been shown to change brain structure.

Other authors of the study included Arthur Toga, director of the UCLA Laboratory of Neuro Imaging; Natasha Lepore of UCLA; and Christian Gaser of the University of Jena in Germany. Funding for the study was provided by the National Institutes of Health. The authors report no conflicts of interest.

The UCLA Laboratory of Neuro Imaging, which seeks to improve understanding of the brain in health and disease, is a leader in the development of advanced computational algorithms and scientific approaches for the comprehensive and quantitative mapping of brain structure and function. The laboratory is part of the UCLA Department of Neurology, which encompasses more than a dozen research, clinical and teaching programs. The department has ranked No. 1 among its peers nationwide in National Institutes of Health funding for the last seven years (2002–08).Click here to visit the original source of this post

Even though there is a great deal of new research being done, there is still much that can and will be discovered about the benefits of meditation and a healthy brain. The practitioners of the ancient wisdom traditions intuitively knew what science is just now coming to understand, that there are profound benefits found from tapping into our inner bliss.

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The First Complaint of a New Meditator

Yoga Vasistha

The Yoga Vasistha: the wisdom of Vedanta

The first complaint of a new meditator is just how restless the mind becomes the moment the eyes are closed, ‘I can’t stop thinking, it’s one thought after another, after another, after another.’ And the problem of thoughts seems all the more apparent, first of all because they simply more aware, and secondly, because there is this misconception that adept meditators can sit down and within moments still their mind as they drift off on a sea of bliss; this is simply not true.

 

 

All meditators wrestle with thoughts; after all, the mind is a thought generator, so even the practiced meditator must learn to move through thought. It’s learning how to move through thought and into meditation, that’s the practice, it’s learning you can meditate even when there are thoughts in the mind. As Sally Kempton explains in her new book, “Meditation for the Love of It,” when there is a shift in perception then, “…the mind need not be completely still for you to experience the state of meditation.”

According to the ancient wisdom tradition of Vedanta, the Yoga Vasistha; “Consciousness plus thoughts is the mind. Consciousness minus thoughts is God.” The practice is to point the restless mind in the proper direction, which we do by bringing the mind to and object of focus, and gently return it, each of the thousands of times it wonders off.

In a post, “Meditation: I am Ocean,” taken from his book, Quantum Healing, Deepak Chopra explores the nature of thought and the challenges that all meditators face, so here I will turn it over to Deepak…

“Thoughts are like ocean waves. Rising and falling, they see only their own motion. They say, “I am a wave,” but the greater truth, which they don’t see, is, “I am ocean.” There is no separation between the two, whatever the wave might suppose. When the wave settles down, then it instantly recognizes that its source in ocean – infinite, silent, unchanging – was always there.

When the mind is thinking, it is all activity; when it stops thinking, it returns to its source in silence. Only then, when the mind touches pure awareness, will the real storehouse of Veda be located.

The experience of Veda therefore is not ancient or even particularly Indian. It is universal and can be had at any moment by any person. The whole trick is not to move horizontally, which is how the stream of consciousness normally moves, but to sink vertically.

This vertical descent is transcending, meditation, dhyan, “going beyond” – all manifestations of a mind that ceases to identify with waves and begins to identify with ocean.” Click here to visit the original source of this post

Sometimes thoughts run deeper than simple distractions, and continue to replay in our minds as a kind of mental feedback loop; these habitual patterns are known in yoga as samskaras. It’s through the light of awareness which is created in meditation that allows us to release all the old emotional and habitual baggage, to free ourselves of the samskaras.

Often we come to meditation with the expectation that we can ‘let go,’ freeing ourselves of all those troublesome and sometimes, buried feelings, thoughts or emotions. What happen instead is, meditation allows these mental blockages, emotional struggles and deep seeded feelings to rise to the surface of our conscious awareness, where once light is shed on them they begin to dissipate into the ether.

As your practice deepens over time you begin to slip into the space between thoughts, sensing and experience the spaciousness which arises. You become the clear sky, unaffected by the clouds of thought as they drift through the vast expanse your serein space.

To read more from the authors mentioned in the article, you can check out their books here:

Sally Kempton: “Meditation for the Love of It,”

Deepak Chopra: “Quantum Healing”

Yoga Vasistha

 

Benefits of Guided Meditation: Kundalini Meditation for Healing

 

Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi

Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi founder of Sahaja Yoga

The benefits of guided meditation have shown up in a large Australian research study of Sahaja Yoga. Sahaja Yoga is based on Kundalini meditation for healing or wholeness and is a method of meditation “which brings a breakthrough in the evolution of human awareness.” Sahaja Yoga begins with self-realization, which is accomplished by a method devised by Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi, through which self-realization is achieved spontaneously, helped by the collective growth in human consciousness.

Sahaja Yoga has been around since 1970 when a divine spiritual experience filled Nirmala Srivastava and she discovered the process of en-mass Self-Realization. Shri Mataji has made it her dharma (purpose) in life to awaken the spiritual power (Kundalini) of every human being.

Now, it would, seem that Australian scientists are confirming what practitioners of Sahaja Yoga have known all along, so here in the Sydney Morning Post is an article by Melissa Lahoud explaining the study…

“Meditation triggers change in electrical activity of the brain, improving the mind and body in measurable ways, the latest study on work stress, led by Dr Ramesh Manocha at Sydney University, reveals.

“Within the context of meditation and stress, it’s the largest study in the world … and we’ve applied some rigorous conditions,” Dr Manocha said.

The secret to the success of the study, he said, was the ”mental silence” traditional approach used in Sahaja Yoga.

“What authentic techniques should do is show you how to widen space between thoughts until the space is so large you have no thoughts whatsoever in that moment,” he said.

The clinical trial participants, 178 full-time workers, practised twice daily at home, for 10 to 20 minutes over eight weeks.

The improvements for mood and depression were twice as high for those practising ”mental silence” compared to the ”relaxation” and placebo groups.

”We’ve done other published studies where, when you teach people relaxation, they feel better, but there’s no change in disease, but when you teach mental silence approach, they felt twice as better but also saw significant changes in indicators with disease,” Dr Manocha said.

He stressed this was not the case for everyone, but many people had told him their symptoms had improved.

This might be the case for Toni Martelli, 33, who took part in the trial. She believes the benign lump on her throat has shrunk by half since adopting mental silence and an alternative medicine approach.

“I started my own drama school this year and the lump appeared this year – I think it was from stress and feeling overwhelmed,” Miss Martelli said.

She found it hard to empty her mind of thoughts, but said it gets easier with practice.

“You always walk away with something and if you’re going through a stressful time, it’s almost like a different point of view to your problem because you detach yourself,” she said.

A Lifeline poll reveals that stress levels are rising, with 93 per cent of Australians under strain at a rate that could create serious illness. .

Workplace stress costs the economy $15 billion a year. Sydney University runs a non-profit program teaching workers and students meditation during classes over four weeks, with about 10 large companies involved over the past few years.” Click here to visit the original source of this post

All real healing happens when we feel whole, and being whole (or holy) is the same thing as Self Realization, Second Birth, Enlightenment, Liberation, Moksha, or Satori this is why Kundalini meditation is a healing meditation.

We feel whole when we realize that “we are not this body, mind, ego, conditionings, emotions or intellect, but something of an eternal nature which is always residing in our heart in a pure, undisturbed state – the Self or Spirit.”

Self-acceptance and Meditation

 

Self-acceptance and Meditation

Self-acceptance and Meditation

Self-acceptance means freedom from self-criticism. Self-criticism is that little voice in your head that seems to be consistently engaging you in negative and repetitive patterns of thought and feelings. The question is, how do you let go of these negative patterns that are the main causes stress? The practice and it is a practice, of letting go, starts with acceptance of what is. This is where self-acceptance and meditation meet.

Meditation teaches you how to cultivate certain qualities, such as non-judgment which is the flip-side of acceptance. You may not like what you see when you first begin to suspend judgment, but if you want to learn to accept things as they are you need to experience them and understand them clearly, without denial. As your observations become clearer in meditation you begin to create more space inside yourself and in that space you can begin the process of getting go.

The letting go process begins by recognizing that you do not have unlimited control of your life. Meditation offers you the opportunity to drop your struggles by allowing the present moment to be as it is and opens you to the experience of pure being. Understanding this process may be easier to grasp with an example, and Ed and Deb Shapiro have story of acceptance that suits…

“We were just with Deb’s mother, Anne, in England. On the third day we were invited for tea at the House of Lord’s (more on that below) and were preparing to catch a train to London. In a bit of a rush we were quickly downing breakfast when the toast got burnt. We watched in amusement as Anne took a deep breath and simply said, “Oh dear, burnt toast,” calmly tossed it in the trash and put a fresh slice of bread in the toaster.

Few of us usually have such a reaction to burnt toast, especially when we are in a hurry. But Deb’s mom displayed the same attitude of calm acceptance later that day when we were having tea in London. Now, being invited to the House of Lords does not happen every day, but we were there to discuss a meditation project with one of the younger Lords. It is a stunningly beautiful old building, seeped in history and tradition and was a real treat for Ed, who grew up in the Bronx. We sat in the chambers and listened to the debate; we walked through the Queen’s robbing room where her throne sits; and then we went for tea.

Tea in the regal Tea Rooms sounds quintessentially English and we fully expected it to be of good English quality. The room was spectacular, the service was everything we could have wanted, but the cakes were not—they were boring, dry, commercial and cheap—not good Brit fare at all. All we could do was swallow distastefully and continue our conversation.

Accepting and simply being with what is, is a quality that Deb’s mother has perfected. It showed itself as she delicately ate her most unappetizing chocolate éclair. It is a quality that we can continue to learn in every moment that does not go our way. But, instead, we usually spend most of our time wishing that things were different – whether it is the big things like our partner or job, or the smaller things like the weather, burnt toast, or chocolate éclairs.

When we resist what is then we create more suffering for ourselves, as there is a constant, underlying dissatisfaction, otherwise known as the “If Only…” syndrome: if only this, that or the other happened, then I could be happy. If only so-and-so would change his or her behavior / lose weight / find a job, then I could be happy. If only I had more money / a bigger house / went traveling / had a good lover, then I could be happy. We were teaching a workshop and a participant, Mary, said she could only be happy when her children were happy. The list is endless. You can fill in the blank spaces for yourself.

Accepting what is, as it is, does not mean that we are like doormats and get passively walked over by all and sundry. Rather, it means recognizing that what happened even just a second ago can never be changed, it is letting the past be where it is so it does not take over the future. We make friends with ourselves and our world. At the same time we can also make changes wherever necessary, working toward a saner and more caring present. We can either make a song and dance about burnt toast and get even more stressed, or we can take a deep breath and put a fresh slice of bread in the toaster.” Click here to visit the original source of this post

There are three afflictions that meditation seeks to relieve, which are attachment, aversion and indifference. The antidotes, to these three afflictions, meditation provides are acceptance and letting go.

Try this little meditation exercise as a way to receive the benefits of practicing letting go and of acceptance.

1. Sit comfortably and begin following your breath. Place your attention on the natural in flow and out flow of your breath, without trying to control it.

2. As you begin to feel relaxed move your awareness to your thoughts and feelings. Allow whatever arises to come into your experience without judgment.

3. Notice that when thoughts that arise that are uncomfortable or are unpleasant, your tendency to avoid or judge them and then accept your judgment of those thoughts. Continue for a few minutes with this process of acceptance.

4. Now bring your awareness to your desire to follow different trains of thought that seem important or pleasant, and no matter how compelling they are, begin letting go of them each time they come up. Continue the process of letting go for a few minutes.

5. When you have become comfortable with accepting and letting go, allow your perspective to shift and see this practice as one continual process of accepting and letting go. When a thought arises, pleasant or unpleasant, acknowledge it and then release it, accept it and let it go.

You can learn more in ED and Deb Shapiro’s book, Be The Change: How Meditation Can Transform You and the World, forewords by the Dalai Lama and Robert Thurman.

The Benefit of Downtime through Meditation

The Benefit of Downtime through Meditation

The Benefit of Downtime through Meditation

Meditation is a process of training the brain and the transformation of the body, mind and soul. The benefits of meditation are discovered, not on the cushion, but how they are reflected in all the aspects of your life, in your actions and attitudes. So it is necessary to develop a regular practice and allow yourself the opportunity to fully immerse yourself in the practice, even if it’s simply for short periods twice a day.

As you practice, with consistency and sincerity, over the course of time you will begin to notice real changes taking place in you. This is why it’s important to spend time in meditative practice, even if it’s only 20or 30 minutes a day, of course, when possible, more would be better. I especially enjoy the morning meditation, it can give my day a whole new ‘color,’ and in a subtle, yet powerful, way it’s effects permeate all aspects of my day, from my the inner relationship with myself to those around me.

You will notice that, as you continue throughout the day you carry the experience of your formal practice. Because you carry that experience with you into your day you will be able to refer to it and drawn upon it as you move through your daily activities. And when you have a momentary break in the action of your daily hustle and bustle, it will be easy for you to slip back into your meditative experience, because it’s now familiar, and you’ll find you easily maintain its beneficial effects.

Another way to immerse yourself in meditation is to experience a meditation retreat. In his article, “Downtime for the Stone Age Brain,” Michael Taft tells of his experiences and his insights after a nighty-two day silent meditation at a retreat center in rural Massachusetts. This is, however, about more than a ‘what I did at my retreat last summer’ type of literary hug, he explores why it was necessary for meditation to arise in the first place. But, hey, I’ll just let Michael speak…

“Recently, I found a meditation retreat center in rural Massachusetts that cost just 10 dollars a day. That super-affordable price included a room of my own, and delicious, organic hippy food. As I was moving to a new city anyway, I let go of my apartment, put my stuff in storage, and went off to the center for three months. Ninety-two days of silent (absolutely no talking) meditation in a cabin in the woods. There were about thirty other people there, the size of your basic hunter-gatherer tribe in the Paleolithic. Because I have been meditating for decades, I had no trouble sinking into the groove of long sits for many hours a day, every day…”

That experience made me very sensitive to a condition that I call my “brain being full.” It’s a specific feeling that I have taken in enough stimulation, and now need to just go be quiet for a while. Having felt what it’s like to have all the backlog of experiences cleared out of my head, I’m intolerant of letting it build up a backlog again. It feels too good when it’s all clean and clear. Another way of talking about this is to say that the frantic, amped up feeling of too much seeking clears away. When we are seeking all the time, we are intaking new material constantly without ever actually dealing with it.

And that makes sense in terms of evolution and our ancestral environment. Our brains would have been more than adequate to handle the few exciting things that came up, and been perfectly content to sort of idle along the rest of the time. That idle mode feels really, really good, because it is probably the natural waking rest mode of the brain. Not caught in a seeking feedback loop. No stress, no anxiety or cortisol, and no overload of problems problems problems that our information overlords shovel into the gaping maw of our need for novelty. It’s like feeding Cap’n Crunch to kids: they can’t stop eating it, even though it’s not doing them any good.

Stone Age Nights

If you were instantly transported back to the Paleolithic, with all your modern faculties intact, what would be the number one thing you would notice? The beauty of nature, the enormous herds of game and flocks of birds, the fresh air, the lack of noise? Sure, those would be wonderful, but your amazement probably wouldn’t last all that long. I suspect that, if you were to stay back in the Stone Age any length of time longer than, say, a week, you would be slammed in the face by how incredibly boring it was. Boring and painful.

Those would be your main impressions. Imagine a world with no books, movies, television, music on demand, Internet, texting. Imagine a world where you only had the same thirty people to talk to, every day for your whole life. Nature is beautiful, but it is also placid. Bird calls, rustling leaves, and babbling brooks comprise the soundscape, something so boring that we call it ambient white noise. It all looks great, but after a while it all looks the same. If you want to see something different, there are no pictures, no magic of the world wide web. When the sun goes down, you can’t see anything for twelve long hours until it comes up again. Next to a campfire or on the few nights of the bright moon, you can sort of see something, but in general you’re just stuck there, staring into the darkness for hours and hours. Boring…”

Seeking

“…Mammals are wired to look for novelty in the environment, a behavior called “seeking…”

“…Our brains have an insatiable urge for seeking new things, but now we have a limitless source of novelty. We are stuffed beyond the limit with unprocessed, undigested, and unhelpful experiences that we cannot convert to energizing, useful, practical knowledge. We can’t stop pressing the seek button, looking for another little hit of dopamine. We are information junkies, and our brains are full. Like rats in a lab, we could just keep hitting the seek button until we collapse.

But maybe there’s a way out. It’s not to shut off the firehose, although I gave up television 30 years ago, and it’s not a bad idea. Instead, it’s to every so often take a break from new information.

I’m not suggesting that everyone take three months off to look at trees (although it wouldn’t hurt). What I am suggesting is that our brains require some real down time. Down time doesn’t mean watching a movie (which is just a bunch of emotional stimulation, and more novelty seeking) or doing something exciting and fun with friends. Down time means deeply quiet, really simple, totally open time in which you are not working, accomplishing anything, or taking in new information. Down time means staring at trees, or strolling aimlessly in a forest. Hanging out at the beach, or sitting on a mountainside. Even in the city, it’s not that hard to just kick back and watch the sky or relax at home. Let yourself get really bored.”

Meditation

Will sitting in a park looking at clouds really be enough to clear all the detritus out of your neurons? My guess, from experience, is that it probably would be, if you could do enough of it. The trouble is that our complicated, busy lives do not afford us enough down time to actually allow the brain the downtime it needs. With all that happens in just one day of modern life, it would take something like a week of hanging out next to a stream to process. Simplicity is not an efficient enough process; it cleans too slowly. We were not designed by evolution to have that much stuff to clear out. Input is greater than the processing available…”

“This is where meditation comes in…. Meditation is a fuzzy word in English. There are many different definitions, and many different techniques, some of which are apparently the opposite of others. For most people, meditation means sitting with your legs crossed and trying not to think. That is actually a very difficult and advanced technique, and not necessarily even the best one. There are certain forms of meditation (such as Zen shinkantaza, Krishanmurti’s choiceness awareness, and various advaita non-techniques) that are essentially just sitting there without doing anything on purpose. This is different than trying not to think, or doing a mantra, or trying to concentrate (although all of these are useful meditation techniques). It is essentially getting out of the way, and allowing the brain eventually to revert to its “natural state.” Although natural is a loaded word, often used to obscure rather than reveal, in this case I think it’s exactly accurate in the sense of the state your brain evolved to be in most of the time. A kind of alert, relaxed openness. Not thinking about anything in particular, but not striving to remove thinking either. Not seeking, in other words.

Meditation is, in a sense, unnatural. It’s very unlikely that HGs in the Paleolithic sat around meditating. They didn’t need to, because everything was much slower, spacious, and gentle. It was low impact on the brain. But with the rise of modern society (and I’m calling India at 500 BCE a modern society, meaning people living in cities), people couldn’t find enough down time to return their minds to a natural state. There was too much novelty, too many new ideas, too much cool stuff to do, talk about, and see. The feedback loop of seeking had too much fuel, and something had to be done. Something that itself was a new technology, an activity that people had not done before, but which would return the brain, and the person, to a relaxed, open state. So we can think of meditation as an unnatural way to return to a natural state. Sort of like weightlifting or special diets–activities which no hunter-gatherer would have engaged in, but which help our bodies return to a more natural state of health and wellbeing…” Click here to visit the original source of this post

I’ve only provided a taste of what Michael has to share and this one of those rare pieces that is well worth spending the time to fully experience.And if you are interested in learning more from Michael you can check out his book, “Ego; the Fall of the Twin Towers and the Rise of an Enlightened Humanity”

Meditation is compatible with, and I believe, a necessary component of an active professional and family life. Meditation provides us the chance to see the events of our lives from a larger perspective while experiencing greater serenity and to move confidently into our future. You will find yourself being less effected by the inevitable setbacks that occur in our life or being carried away by superficial success.

That is the transformative effect of meditation, which happens organically and without effort, as your practice deepens, so that you will find yourself acting more effectively in the world, with a greater sense of personal peace.

“The very best and utmost attainment in this life is to remain still and let God act and speak in thee.”

-Meister Eckhart