Meditation can Boost Your Happiness

Meditation can Boost Your Happiness

Meditation can boost your happiness, and happiness is the goal of all goals and the purpose of life. When you are happy you are more likely to make choices that will bring you things you desire like success, good health or wonderful relationships. This is something of the reverse of what many people believe, thinking that if they attain success, health or nurturing relationships, and then they will find happiness.

Knowing that happiness comes first, the question is how to create happiness for no reason. The answer is meditation, but leads to a different question, “how long do I have meditate to experience results?”

Wray Herbert, author of “On Second Thought: Outsmarting Your Mind’s Hard-Wired Habits,” had the same question and the answers he discovered will be surprising to many. So here’s what Wray had to say about what he discovered…

I have been experimenting with mindfulness meditation recently. Originally a Buddhist practice, mindfulness meditation focuses on moment-to-moment awareness, of one’s body and its sensations and one’s immediate surroundings. When thoughts intrude on this aware state — as they always do — you gently let them go as you return to the moment. It’s very calming — and really hard.

It’s hard because the mind does not want to stop churning out thoughts. I’m told that with time and practice, meditation becomes easier, and what’s more that it brings a variety of emotional and health benefits. Those testimonials are why I’m doing this, but I confess the prospect is daunting. Expert Buddhist practitioners log some 10,000 hours of training, and even neophytes should expect to log 70 or more hours of training, over months, before seeing any noticeable benefits.

So imagine how encouraged I was to come across a recent study that seems designed for impatient souls like me. Psychological scientist Christopher Moyer, and a large group of colleagues at the University of Wisconsin — Stout, designed a brain study to see if there might be at least some benefit after a very brief period of meditation training. It’s a small study, and the first of its kind.

The scientists recruited a group of volunteers, ranging in age from 18 to 73, all interested but inexperienced at meditation practice. The volunteers completed an emotional inventory before starting the study, and they also closed their eyes and tried to meditate for 18 minutes on their own. All they were told was to focus on their breathing, and if thoughts intruded, to re-focus their attention on their breathing. During this trial, they were hooked up to an EEG, which measured their baseline brain activity.

The participants had volunteered in exchange for training by experienced instructors, and half were immediately enrolled in such training. The others were wait-listed; they received training later on, but served as controls for the brain study. In the actual study, the meditation trainees were offered nine 30-minute sessions over five weeks, each session consisting of a short lesson and 5 to 20 minutes of “sitting.” After the five weeks, all of the volunteers — trainees and controls — repeated the 18-minute meditation trial, again hooked up to the EEG.

The results got my attention. As reported online in the journal Psychological Science, the trainees ended up averaging fewer than seven sessions, and meditated at home just a couple times a week — so they only got about six hours of training and practice in all over the five weeks. That comes to minutes a day, not hours. But even with this very modest commitment of time, the novices showed a significant shift in brain activity from their right to their left frontal hemispheres over the course of the study. Such brain asymmetry is associated with a shift to more positive emotional processing. In short, the promised benefits of meditation may be much more accessible than previously thought.

It’s not clear from these results whether these brain changes are lasting, or if they are limited to actual meditation and its immediate aftermath. I also anticipate that some purists will object to the whole idea that beginners would want to get something for nothing. But really, for newcomers to a practice so unfamiliar, even evidence of a temporary shift away from negative emotions is something to build on, and keep us coming back. Read full post here…

While the jury may still be out on the long term benefits of a short term meditation practice, anyone who moves ahead with a regular practice can certainly expect results.  

Meditation can boost your happiness because as the studies are showing, it alters the brain in many positive ways. Meditation stimulates the release of neurotransmitters, including dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin and other brain opiates. So just in creating higher levels of these neurotransmitters, meditation is one of the more effective ways of changing the brain’s set point for happiness.

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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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The Benefits of Short-Term Meditation

 

 

The benefits of Short-Term Meditation

The benefits of Short-Term Meditation

This a small yet, I believe, significant study in which the conclusion appears to be, that even with a short term, but regular, meditation practice, the benefits are measurable and quantifiable. This study, scheduled to be published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, finds that there are, after only five weeks, changes in brain activity.

Research has long proven, in hundreds of studies on the health benefits of meditation, those who meditate regularly consistently to better when their markers for health are measured. The question that had yet to be answered was, just how fast could we expect to see measurable results?

This study is a nice step in that direction. Here I believe that I will let Divya Menon, of Psychological Science take over…

In the late 1990s, Jane Anderson was working as a landscape architect. That meant she didn’t work much in the winter, and she struggled with seasonal affective disorder in the dreary Minnesota winter months. She decided to try meditation and noticed a change within a month. “My experience was a sense of calmness, of better ability to regulate my emotions,” she says. Her experience inspired a new study which will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, which finds changes in brain activity after only five weeks of meditation training.

Previous studies have found that Buddhist monks, who have spent tens of thousands of hours of meditating, have different patterns of brain activity. But Anderson, who did this research as an undergraduate student together with a team of University of Wisconsin-Stout faculty and students, wanted to know if they could see a change in brain activity after a shorter period.

At the beginning of the study, each participant had an EEG, a measurement of the brain’s electrical activity. They were told: “Relax with your eyes closed, and focus on the flow of your breath at the tip of your nose; if a random thought arises, acknowledge the thought and then simply let it go by gently bringing your attention back to the flow of your breath.”

Then 11 people were invited to take part in meditation training, while the other 10 were told they would be trained later. The 11 were offered two half-hour sessions a week, and encouraged to practice as much as they could between sessions, but there wasn’t any particular requirement for how much they should practice.

After five weeks, the researchers did an EEG on each person again. Each person had done, on average, about seven hours of training and practice. But even with that little meditation practice, their brain activity was different from the 10 people who hadn’t had training yet. People who had done the meditation training showed a greater proportion of activity in the left frontal region of the brain in response to subsequent attempts to meditate. Other research has found that this pattern of brain activity is associated with positive moods.

The shift in brain activity “was clearly evident even with a small number of subjects,” says Christopher Moyer, one of Anderson’s coauthors at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. “If someone is thinking about trying meditation and they were thinking, ‘It’s too big of a commitment, it’s going to take too much rigorous training before it has an effect on my mind,’ this research suggests that’s not the case.” For those people, meditation might be worth a try, he says. “It can’t hurt and it might do you a lot of good.”

“I think this implies that meditation is likely to create a shift in outlook toward life,” Anderson says. “It has really worked for me.” Click here to visit the original source of this post

When we bring the mind-body into balance and increase our overall levels of peace, well-being and relaxation, through regular meditation, it causes the f life-affirming chemicals into our bloodstream and enhances our immune system. Studies have shown that, not only will you live longer, but your mind will stay sharper and you will be less likely to suffer from depression and other mental health problems. And now we will happen in a much shorter time that previously believed.

“The gift of learning to meditate is the greatest gift you can give yourself in this life. For it is only through meditation that you can undertake the journey to discover your true nature, and so find the stability and confidence you will need to live, and die, well. Meditation is the road to enlightenment.” ~ Sogyal Rinpoche

The Benefits of Vipassana Meditation

 

The benefits of Vipassana meditation are that as you practice it you will soon see that your thoughts and feelings are part of you but they are not you. You will be able to watch them, some being short flashes across your mind, others string themselves together to form long trains, still other create pictures in the mind and you are the one observing them all.

The Benefits of Vipassana Meditation

The Benefits of Vipassana Meditation

Vipassana is an awareness meditation; it doesn’t involve concentration on the breath, mantras or mandalas and candle flames. For a novice meditator, like Yvonne Moran, a ten day Vipassana meditation retreat was less like a retreat and a lot more like a marine boot camp, at least in the beginning.

But this experience is best told by the participant…

“The idea of meditating with no contact with the outside world for days on end on the sultry, tropical island of Sri Lanka might sound heavenly – but it proved to be the toughest thing I’d done in years.

No talking, no eye contact with others, no phones, internet, reading or writing: trying to spend all your waking hours during the 10-day course committed to learning Vipassana meditation was difficult enough.

But 10-plus hours spent meditating every day, all the time trying to sit – and remain immobile – in the lotus position, while simultaneously attempting to still the mind, to think of one thing only, and nothing else, was almost torturous.

Several “old students”, or experienced mediators, described their first course as “hell”.

Sweat was pouring off me in the early morning darkness and late into the night. The first few days were spent writhing in extreme discomfort and pain as I attempted to sit crossed-legged and erect on the cushioned floor in the same position for what seemed like interminable periods of time.

Stilling the mind, trying to clear it of everything other than focusing on breathing, for the first four days, then on the body’s sensations for the next six, proved a Herculean task.

Our busy minds run helter-skelter; trying to train the mind to focus on the one task and to have to continually bring it back from its incessant thought wanderings, was a monumental task.

It took many days before I came even close to achieving the recorded instructions. And still the mind wandered, just less often and with quieter thoughts. I had to keep on reminding the mind to focus, focus . . .

A ringing bell at 4am woke the 51 sleeping, mainly Sri Lankan, participants (there were three female and four male foreigners). Those pre-dawn two-hour meditation sessions were the toughest.

The 6.30am breakfast of tea, white rice, spicy vegetables and a banana was served to the segregated sexes in the dining room. Their metal cups and plates washed, meditators returned to the basic dormitories or two-three bedroom cottages to sleep.

Group meditation sessions started at 8am. During these four daily periods, participants were asked to try and remain in one position without moving at all. That meant no leaving the meditation hall for any reason. It was, apparently, a way of gaining strength from everyone undergoing the same process simultaneously.

Meditators could sit against the wall or walk outside for short rest periods if they needed a break during the non-group sessions.

A 10-20 minute break was followed by more meditation. Lunch at 11am usually consisted of rice, perhaps lentils, a good selection of spicy and some boiled vegetables, with something sweet to finish. This was the last meal of the day.

It was then time for showers, washing clothes and resting before the bell summoned us to the 1pm meditation. Group meditation continued through the early afternoon, followed by more meditation until teatime, – four crackers and a banana were the usual offerings.

Then there was another hour of meditation at 6pm. A video talk by lay meditator SN Goenka, who brought the technique from Burma to India, and from where it has spread around the world, followed. The last group meditation of 30 minutes finished at 9pm, followed by bed.

It was so hard; I was counting the days to the end. But slowly I came to realise it would be impossible to learn this form of meditation without undergoing such an intensive course.

The 2,500-year-old Vipassana meditation is universally applicable and non-secular. It teaches through your body’s sensations to see things as they really are.

By neutrally observing the changing nature of body and mind; of observing how the body’s sensations continually change, meditators learn the nature of impermanence, suffering and egolessness.

Eventually, you become more able to note the body’s pleasant and unpleasant sensations (pain or tension from sitting in one position, for example) without craving or aversion – without having to change your position to alleviate the discomfort, realizing that it is temporary and not permanent.

Those meditating become more balanced and learn not to react immediately to everyday life’s perceived pleasant and unpleasant events. It enables them to face life with more equilibrium, knowing that nothing is permanent and that everything passes.

I was exhausted after six months of travel in India and felt that doing something completely different would instill a new enthusiasm. Meditation was something I’d been interested in learning about, and with time to spare, I thought it would be a good idea to attempt it.

I was also exhausted after the course, and thinner, but I felt lighter, more positive and a bit more patient.”

The benefit of Vipassana meditation is from breath awareness insight arises naturally. When all the different kinds of thoughts, feeling, sensations and images arise, we learn to rest in the stillness, allowing the mind to be as it is, without discrimination or judgment.

Insight meditation or Vipassana is, it’s said, to be the type of meditation that the Buddha himself taught. There are a few insight meditation centers in the US, in California and Massachusetts, that offer intensive short term (ten day) and long term (three month) retreats. Click here to visit the original source of this post

The Meditation Benefit of Clearing Your Mind

Who is Andy Puddicombe? He’s a former Buddhist monk and was called by The Times of London, “Britain’s top meditation guru,” but likes to think of himself as an anti-guru.

Andy Puddicombe

Andy Puddicombe - Bringing Headspace to America

And it looks like he is bringing his nonprofit organization, Headspace, to America. Headspace is, “a project to demystify meditation, to make it accessible, practical and relevant to your life,” a site that offers a number of the ‘meditation for beginners’ type videos.

Actually, the New York Times article does a nice job of introducing Andy to those who have not heard about his style of, “secularized meditation.”

Enter the New York Times…

“What would New York look like if everyone took just 10 minutes out of their day to step back from it all?” Mr. Puddicombe, a former Buddhist monk, asked in his rubbery Bristol accent. He was trying out his message — that inner peace can be achieved in meditation sessions shorter than the average cab ride — on an invitation-only audience of harried fashion editors, hedge funders and advertising executives.

Outside, the roar of a motorcycle shredded the springtime evening calm. In the rear row, a leggy woman in a black miniskirt tapped away on her BlackBerry.

“New York is undoubtedly my biggest challenge yet,” he said later. Mr. Puddicombe, 38, has made a career of promoting a quick and easy, religion-free brand of meditation, aimed at busy professionals who would ordinarily recoil at the smell of incense. He teaches techniques that can be practiced on a crowded subway or even while wolfing a sandwich (albeit, mindfully) during a quick lunch break at your desk.

Next year, he and his business partner, Rich Pierson (a former client), plan to move their nonprofit organization, Headspace, to the United States and set up operations in New York, Miami and Los Angeles.

Purists may raise an eyebrow at his promise of a shortcut path to bliss, but Mr. Puddicombe has already struck a chord in the United Kingdom, where he has become something of a Dr. Phil of the yogi set. His new book, “Get Some Headspace: 10 Minutes Can Make All the Difference,” was part of a three-book deal that earned him an advance in the mid-six figures, in dollars.

His group’s Web site, getsomeheadspace.com, features beginner-friendly instructional videos and had 200,000 visitors last year, due in part to Mr. Puddicombe’s regular appearances on BBC Radio. He is also branching into television. In September, Channel 4 in Britain will start a series of 10-minute meditation videos that he stars in. They will be broadcast between regular programs, like tiny TV shows.

His growing media presence has been built on top of a clinical practice in the Kensington district of London that caters to hard-charging achievers: bankers, actors, Premier League soccer players and members of Parliament. He also consults for corporations like Nomura securities and Google.

As such, it’s tempting to call him the maharishi of the money class. But Mr. Puddicombe is uncomfortable with any messianic connotations. “I’m the anti-guru,” he said. Despite his Dalai Lama-esque shaved head, he could be mistaken for a nightclubbing striker for the Tottenham Hotspur soccer team, with his sleek sports jackets from Uniqlo and shirts that show off his muscular build.

Ed Halliwell, a meditation author and writer for The Guardian’s Web site, said Mr. Puddicombe is “doing for meditation what someone like Jamie Oliver has done for food.” And like Mr. Oliver, he’s ready to conquer the United States. At the Industria event, Mr Puddicombe was not promising spiritual enlightenment, only a technique that combines steady breathing with mind-focusing exercises.

“We’ve secularized meditation,” he said. Click here to visit the original source of this post

The idea of ‘secularized meditation’ is not for everyone, for some there is a strong need for a deeper connection, but for others, this may be just the approach they need to embrace and receive the benefits of meditation.

However, even if meditation is secularized that does not mean that the practice should be trivialized or that it doesn’t come from a deep and profound place.ᅠ Nor does it mean that, while the benefits of meditation are vast, meditation is the solution to all of life’s problems.

I do believe that the reason for the success of programs like, Jon Kabat–Zinn’s, MBSR program and the Headspace offerings, is the almost desperate need in today’s high speed, high tech world, for stress relief; a reconnecting with our humanity.

So here’s a bit more about Andy Puddicombe, this time from The Times of London… ᅠᅠᅠ

As an ordained monk, Puddicombe spent ten years in monasteries in Nepal, India, Tibet and Russia, often meditating for up to 18 hours a day. He left the monastic life to teach meditation and to fulfil what he believes is his vocation, “to bring meditation [or ‘mindfulness’, as it’s often called] to as many people as possible, and especially to people who wouldn’t usually consider it”.

His timing couldn’t be better. The Beatles were the first to popularise meditation in the UK in the Sixties, but it’s only now that it has reached its tipping point. A growing body of respected research over the past 20 years has suggested that meditation improves a range of psychological and biological functions, including blood pressure, sleep patterns, stress control and levels of serotonin, the happy hormone. The evidence is now so overwhelming that in 2007 it was approved for use in the NHS and independent healthcare — many of Puddicombe’s private clients come to him through GP referral, and he uses it to help with anything from depression and eating disorders to addictions.

The concept of meditation chimes with the times, too. Cheap, portable and scientifically proven to be a powerful defence against stress and anxiety, it’s the perfect self-help treatment for the current convergence of tough times and post-consumerist values.

When I ask about the famous clients, he politely brushes the question away, partly to protect their privacy, and because their celebrity seems genuinely unimportant to him. “One great thing you learn through practicing meditation is empathy. You understand how much the same we all are.” He is just as focused on his non-celebrity clients, and has started a new not-for-profit project called Headspace, which aims to make meditation “accessible and practical”, meaning free from mystery, jargon and religion. It will feature group-training events and interactive online resources including podcasts and MP3 downloads. “My aim is to get as many people as possible to try it for ten minutes a day and see that it’s a great practical tool for everyday life.” He has started a regular Friday morning slot on the BBC Radio 2 Chris Evans Breakfast Show, and is working with Jamie Oliver’s website on issues surrounding “mindfulness” around food and eating.

Anyone can learn to meditate, Puddicombe says. “Meditation is about putting you in the present moment. It’s not about being caught up in never-ending cycle of thoughts that seems to occupy our every waking day. When you step out of that, it brings a sense of profound relaxation, and lets you experience any activity — from your work to eating a sandwich — more directly and more intimately.” Meditation has two main effects on the mind, “calm and clarity”. Finding calm is often what brings people to meditation, “but the greater, long-term benefit is clarity. It gradually allows you to still your mind; you understand what is really causing you stress and become more self-aware”. Most of us don’t know ourselves very well. “We think we do, but we can’t. Our minds are like a pool of water. We’re constantly dropping thoughts into them, which ripple the surface. Meditation doesn’t empty your mind but it creates space between the thoughts so the surface can be calm and we can see our reflection more clearly.” Many people find it helps to give them direction and makes them more focused and creative.

Puddicombe is a great debunker. He teaches meditation to people wearing ordinary clothes, sitting in chairs: “There’s no need to sit in a special posture on the floor.” Ideally, he says, the practice should be integrated into our everyday lives. “You can meditate on the Tube — it’s a good way to beat commuter stress — and there are techniques you can learn so you can meditate while you are brushing your teeth, at your desk or walking home. I recommend three short sessions of ten minutes a time, rather than one big session in the morning.”

To show me how it works, he takes me though a short training session. I sit on a chair with my back straight but relaxed, my feet on the floor and my hands resting on my stomach. He tells me to close my eyes and focus on my breath. The first step is becoming aware of it, and then to count each breath as it comes and goes up to ten, and then to start again. To begin with I’m thinking of other things at the same time — did I send off my car insurance ? — but then, for a few moments, I’m not thinking about anything except noticing my breathing, which has gradually become slower and deeper. I have to “re-enter” the conversation slowly — it feels as if I’ve been in a different room, and for longer than ten minutes. If I can feel noticeably different after ten minutes in a strange office with someone I’ve just met, what could daily practice do for me?

“The word ‘meditation’ comes from a Sanskrit word that means ‘mind training’. It gives you deeper insights and deeper peace. It changes all your perceptions, about yourself and others. Then you take what meditation gives you into your work, and into your relationships and communications with other people.ᅠ

It makes them all better and it makes you happier.” Click here toᅠvisit the original source of this post

So in the end will 10 minutes a day really create the meditation benefit of clearing your mind? Because meditation is a natural and organic process, and because once it’s been, truly, planted in your being, it will then it will grow and expand, so the short answer to the question is, yes.ᅠ

Science confirms it; experience takes it to a deeper place, a place of knowing. If you want to check out the mindfulness training techniques taught in the Headspace program, you can check out Andy’s, “Get Some Headspace,” book at Amazon.

The Benefit of Yoga as Meditation

Here in the west the word “yoga,” has, in popular culture, become synonymous with the physical postures (asana) while meditation is seen as a separate practice. Yet at its core, Yoga means union, and its essential purpose is the integration of all the layers of life, body, mind and soul, so there is an ‘oneness’ in the essence of the practice between the postures and meditation.

The Benefit of Yoga as Meditation

The Benefit of Yoga as Meditation

 

When yoga is practiced in this way it enters into every aspect of our lives and becomes a living meditation in much the same way the Buddhist practice of mindfulness becomes mindful living.

This is the basis of the article by Alice Walton, writing in Forbes, part two of her post, “The Psychology of Yoga,” which is worth clicking past the pop-up advertisement to get to. I’ll start you off with a little taste…ᅠ

“Having explored the nuts and bolts of yoga’s amazing health benefits, it seemed natural to switch from the objective to the subjective, and take a look at what yoga has been shown to do in the mind. After all, many people say that after starting yoga they feel mentally stronger, more relaxed, less depressed, and more level-headed than before. Heck, I’m the first to admit it’s the best therapy I’ve ever had. So to discuss how and why these changes occur, I turned to two well-recognized and seasoned practitioners.

Stephen Cope, director of the Institute for Extraordinary Living at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, explains that yoga itself is a form of meditation, and herein lies its power. “Yoga provides attentional training and self-regulation,” he says. “In practicing yoga, we’re training our awareness to attend to the low of thoughts, feelings and sensations in the body – and to be with these different states without self-judgment or reactivity.”

In other words, yoga teaches a new kind of attention. People who practice yoga learn how to accept all the stress-inducing thoughts that flit around in one’s head – negative self-talk, worries, snap judgments – as just that: thoughts, and nothing more. Since reacting to our thoughts is typically what gets us into trouble, learning to attend to them and accept them nonjudgmentally is key. Then we can let them go, says Cope, and “make wise choices – not based on reactivity to these states, but on our best interests.”

This idea of paying attention to one’s thoughts in a nonjudgmental way is what mindfulness meditation, or mindfulness training, is all about. This ancient practice has gained a lot of interest from researchers (and regular folk) in recent years. Scientists have studied how mindfulness courses can change people’s reactions and behaviors, and how they can literally change the structure of the brain. Attentional training and mindfulness have been shown to provide major benefits in treating everything from stress and depression to serious addictions. And yoga seems to work in much the same way.”

The benefit of yoga as meditation is that the whole of the human nervous system is renewed; the body enjoys greater energy and health, the mind is freed from memories of the past and fantasizes of the future and perception becomes clearer and non-judgmental. ᅠClick here to visit the original source of this post

Meditation Benefits for Baby Boomers Only

I could have titled this piece, “meditation benefits for baby boomers only or how to age gracefully and well,” it would have been a bit long, but accurate. I can remember Swami Rama, a great teacher, writer, humanitarian and founder of the Himalayan Institute, being asked what he thought was one of the greatest benefits of Yoga, to which he replied, ‘being able to tie my own shoes at ninety.’ ᅠA simple, yet, profound benefit, especially for those of us who find ourselves not quite as supple as we were even a few years ago.

Meditation Benefits for Baby Boomers Only

Meditation Benefits for Baby Boomers Only

Part of Yoga is about flexibility of the body, but it is equally about maintaining flexibility of the mind and this is where meditation, which is the essence of Yoga, comes in. Recent studies on meditation and stress have shown that the practice positively influences the very expression of our DNA and Telomeres activity (telomeres are caps at the end of our DNA strands and are biological markers of age). But, for all its physical and mental benefits, meditation, is ultimately, a spiritual experience, which by definition is personal and unique.

Lewis Richmond takes the spiritual, via the Buddhist approach, to aging well. I’ll let him tell you in his own words about his experience of being, “one individual face to face with his own aging.”

“Forty years ago, when my Buddhist teacher Shunryu Suzuki was in his mid-sixties and the students around him were mostly in their 20s and 30s, someone asked him, “Why do we meditate?” He replied, “So you can enjoy your old age.” We all laughed and thought he was joking. Now that I am the age he was then, I realize he wasn’t joking at all….”

“…For the last several years I have been developing a contemplative approach to growing old and aging well. I have come to believe, as my teacher did, that spiritual practice can help us to age gracefully, and that the last part of life is a fruitful time for spiritual inquiry and practice. As part of my research, I logged on to Amazon, put in the search word “aging” and sorted by descending best-seller. Yes, there were a lot of best-selling books with the word “aging” in the title. But when I looked more closely I could see that most of the titles really weren’t about aging per se, but about postponing, disguising, or reversing aging. It was only when I set aside sales rank as my criterion that I found some good books with a spiritual approach to aging. Two of my favorites are The Gift of Years: Growing Older Gracefully by Benedictine nun Joan Chittister, and Spirituality and Aging by gerontology professor Robert C. Atchley.

What other resources do we have for accepting aging with grace, about learning the lessons of wisdom that aging teaches, about investigating the deep questions of our human life? 2,500 years ago, the Buddha had a lot to say about the inevitability of loss and change. What could all of us aging folks learn from his teaching today?

The Buddha taught that “everything changes,” and many of today’s Buddhists repeat that teaching as a patent truism. But suppose we were to rephrase those words to say, “Everything we love and cherish is going to age, decline, and eventually disappear, including our own precious selves?” Suddenly this “truism” takes on a different coloration and urgency. It’s all going to go, the Buddha is saying, all of it — everything that matters to us. In fact that process is always happening; everything is aging, all the time. How is it that we didn’t notice?

When we are young, we don’t notice. In youth, life is full of opportunity, and when things go wrong there are do-overs and second chances. But on the downhill slope of life, we start to notice the worrisome finitude of time. We go to more funerals, we visit more hospitals, we view the daily news with more distance, and we start to feel an autumnal chill in the air. There are joys too, of course — grandchildren, time for travel (if we can afford it!), the pursuit of long-dreamed-of avocations and new beginnings, as well as the energizing impulse to “give back” to community and society.

There is also a fresh opportunity to look to the inner life, to revisit the deep questions that a busy career and family responsibilities might have long pushed into the background. A regular contemplative practice can indeed be a part of this journey, and Buddhism offers rich resources in this area. In my upcoming book Aging as a Spiritual Practice: A Contemplative Guide to Growing Older and Wiser (Gotham Books, January 2012) I offer many such contemplative practices — from traditional meditations on breath, gratitude, and compassion, to more innovative reflections on time, worry, fear, and what I have ecumenically termed “the inner divine.” The last section of the book — “A Day Away” — is a guided personal retreat that uses these contemplative exercises as a way to reflect on aging in all its many dimensions. I use the term “elderhood” to refer to the totality of this effort.

Elderhood is the culminating stage of a life fully lived. When the time comes, we can (although we may not always ) assume the mantle of elderhood as a kind of birthright, and traditional cultures have all honored and supported elderhood, giving their elders specific roles and tasks to do. In today’s wired, youth-oriented world, elders don’t typically garner that same kind of respect. These days, each of us has to imagine and construct our own expression of elderhood, and find ways to bring it forward.”

Lewis continues with a poignant example of “elderhood” that occurred in the aftermath of the earthquake in Japan and the resulting damage to the nuclear reactors, in which elder Japanese volunteered to help clean them up.

The meditation benefits for baby boomers are that research has found that older people that practice meditation have improved behavioral and cognitive abilities live longer and are happier than those who don’t. Click here to visit the original source of this post

The Meditation Benefit of Saving Time

The meditation benefit of saving time, how important is it? According to the “Yoga Vasistha,” one of the great books of the Vedic wisdom traditions, “Time is the consumer and we are its food. We are time’s food,” and “The inexorable passage of invisible and intangible time eats up all creatures. Knowing this, the wise keep their attention on the timeless;” so, the wisdom imparted here, would answer our question with a resounding, ‘very important.’

The Meditation Benefit of Saving Time

The Meditation Benefit of Saving Time

ᅠ“Among all the substances we misuse and abuse, the greatest is time. Time is life; we squander it at our peril. Killing time deadens ourselves,” begins Lama Sura Das in his article, “6 Time Management Tips from the Buddha.” The funny thing about time is that it has no absolute reality; in fact it was Einstein that taught us that it was relative. ᅠ

Alan Watts once used an hourglass as a metaphor in describing time, saying the way we view time is as if the big bulb at one end of the hourglass represented the past, and the big bulb at the other represented the future, with the narrow neck in between being the present. But when our perception of time changes we discover that, “…we have, in fact, an enormous present in which we live and that the purely abstract borders of this present are the past and the future.” ᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠ

Because time is a creation of thought, you move beyond time when you move passed thinking into the now, with your attention fully in this moment. How do you do that? Well, enter Lama Sura Das…

“Does anyone have time today? I do! During the 40 years I’ve spent studying and teaching Buddhism, and in the process of writing my new book, “Buddha Standard Time: Awakening to the Infinite Possibilities of Now,” I’ve learned how to find, make, and keep time.

Actually, it’s not time we lack; it’s focus, awareness and a sense of priorities. We must change the space of the pace — wake ourselves up by shifting to another way of being. We have all the time in the world. It’s up to us to choose how to use it.

Create Some Space in the Pace

Re-mindfulness — remembering to remember, being mindful, returning to the moment, not living in the past or future — is the core of the Buddha’s path to awakening and enlightenment. This doesn’t mean being narcissistic or regressing to a teenager’s self-conscious whine of “What about me?” But rather recollecting ourselves and staying constantly aware of what we’re really doing right this minute.

Time-sickness is rampant today. People say they want to slow down and live more naturally and in a healthy and sane manner, but who knows how to actually do so, has time-medicine available, and is also ready, willing, and able? “Buddha Standard Time” offers a potent dose of tools and techniques, tips and pointers to heal this affliction. Awareness is the essential ingredient in this great journey, delivering to us the bigger picture as well as minute details along the way.

Catch Yourself Before Things Catch You

Annie Dillard wrote, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” The choice is yours. You can learn to catch yourself before things catch and entangle you. Try to apply remindfulness — intentional and nonjudgmental consideration — to everything you do, say, and think, before you blindly react.

In other words, pause and consider. Do you really want to play another game of Angry Birds, or would you rather giggle with your children for five minutes? Watch a rerun of a television program that wasn’t that great the first time, or spend half an hour meditating? Bury your head in the Internet, or put it on the pillow and get a good night’s sleep? With a mere moment of lucid attention we can increase the quality of each minute, each hour, and ultimately our lives.

Conscious Reframing

Sometimes it only takes a simple re-framing of our mental outlook to change our lives. I remember discovering that I could consciously and intentionally turn the interruptive chore of walking the dog twice a day into my time, and it became the best hour of my day. My loyal blond canine companion, Lili, taught me to re-frame dog walking as meditation. I could be with nature; befriend the world, my neighbors, and myself; develop a more inclusive attitude; and even get a little exercise. All it required was a small adjustment in consciousness and perspective. I call this conscious re-framing. It’s easy, free and extraordinarily rewarding.

Mindful Anger Management

Learn to utilize what I call a “wedge of awareness.” Impose your consciousness between thoughts, words, and actions — outer stimuli — and your inner reaction. If someone cuts you off in traffic, consciously stop and let it go; don’t cling to rage as you drive and allow someone else’s action to steal your time. This simple practice of equanimous detachment — it’s like returning to the breath again, again and yet again in meditation — can be extremely helpful because it liberates us from regret, anger and guilt and ultimately frees our time. It is the heart of what I call mindful anger management and can be applied to emotional processing of any kind…”

“…Time is an excellent servant but a poor master; you have to take time to make time, by intentionally creating some space in the pace. It’s now or never, as always. Who can afford to wait? Better to wake up to our lives, by thoroughly and uninhibitedly engaging in what we’re doing right now, mindful of our words, thoughts and deeds…”

As he continues in this post Lama Sura Das offers more wisdom and other ‘time management tips from the Buddha,’ such as, “mindful anger management,” to help us ‘find the time’ to connect with ourselves.

Meditation teaches is how to enter into the space where we can put our “attention on the timeless,” and learn how to be present. So that is the meditation benefit of saving time; saving our lives by keeping our attention on the place outside of time and space, the Divine.ᅠClick here to visit the original source of this post

A Field Guide to Taoist Meditation Benefits

Taoism and Taoist meditation benefits, ᅠmake up this ancient Chinese philosophy, a system which emphasizes mindfulness, effortless action and the oneness of life. Taoism is part of the unique blend that makes up Zen and the Tao’s beginning are attributed to two historical figures, Chang Tzu, who wrote the Chang Tzu and the more popular and well known Lao Tzu, who wrote the Tao Te Ching.

A Field Guide to Taoist Meditation Benefits

A Field Guide to Taoist Meditation Benefits

The Tao is mindfulness without the techniques, the most basic of meditation, which is why, I suppose, that it can be the most challenging to comprehend.

But let me let Sat Hon, Author and founder of the New York Dan Tao Center, fill you in on This meditation…

“On Finding a Teacher

On one fine summer day, as I strolled aimlessly along a riverbank,
Beset with a thousand disquietudes,
I chanced upon an old woman fishing under the shady cool of creeping willows.
I wanted to ask her my thousand questions regarding the sun, moon and the creation of the universe and my purpose in life and oh so many more,
She placed her fingers on her lips: Fish are rising.
So I stood there and watched.
The freckled river shimmered with flashes of light like scales of an anaconda.
Clouds drift and tugged the blue horizon with their thick, silken strands;
Shadows of the willow grove deepened.
I felt my questions draining away.
Finally, as she slowly reeled in her line, I laughed as I saw that the line was without a hook.
How does one catch fish without a hook? I wondered.
As she turned to go, I know that tea is ready and I am invited.
Following behind her light, drifting footsteps, a gentle breeze combs through the willow branches,
I catch fragments of their whispering: A big one she caught…”

* * *
“Taoist meditation is action without aim. It is an aimless, meandering meditation without technique or prefabricated notion — fishing without a hook. In Taoism, the very nature of this existence is considered a total meditation of the cosmos. Yet, my clinging mind needs something concrete, steps and the knowhow. Thus, began my foray into the wide horizon of meditation.

Taoist alchemical meditation

I consider this the most simple yet, the most difficult of meditations. There is no technique, no particular posture or formality. Just this very instance of one’s existence is the meditation. One takes each moment as perfect, whole and everything in its rightful place; thoughts, emotions and such are wonderful, magnificent manifestations and an expression of one’s true nature. It is likened to a man waking up after a long coma to find everything — every thought utterly sweet. In other words, as in the case of a patient of mine who suffered partial paralysis from a stroke, the sharp pain of a needle was felt with overwhelming joy and gratitude.

When I teach this pathless form of meditation to students: that there is nothing to teach and everything is perfect and in harmony just as they are in this very moment. I am usually met with the following:

“Ughh. But you have taught us nothing,” is a common response.

“Exactly,” I laugh. While, some walk out in a huff.

“Charlatan!” they shout.

A few stay, hoping that perhaps at a later time I will eventually reveal the secret techniques to them. They will also leave empty-handed and full of blame and anger. Only a rare individual or two will awaken to this instantaneous perfection of suchness.

“You lying thief!” they laugh. And perhaps, we will then share a cup of Dragon Well tea.

Mentak Chia’s macrocosmic/microcosmic meditation

The representative of this lineage of Taoist meditation is Master Mentak Chia who guides students in circulating their endogenous energy/Qi through the acupuncture meridians. Master Chia also utilizes the internal visualization of the inner smile in this meditation. Smiling to one’s angry liver or soothing the weeping lungs might seem farfetched, but such inward smiling does have wonderful healing affects on the organs and their functions. Furthermore, in the opening of the endogenous energy channels, the source and root causes of pathogens are vanquished and one’s health is restored. In summary, the Healing Tao meditation system emphasizes the harnessing of the mind’s power in the health process and guides one toward healing.”

Sat Hon offers a number of other meditations all of which impart wisdom and Taoist meditation benefits and this article also has a FAQ section, which is very interesting and worth the read.

So remember when practicing mindfulness meditation, keep it simple and effortless, and you will be following “the way.” Click here to visit the original source of this post

Embracing Change a Meditation Benefit

The Buddhist have a saying that goes something like this, suffering is wanting what you don’t have and not wanting what you do have, while happiness is the opposite, which is not about surrendering your desires, only accepting what is in this moment. ᅠ

The benefit of meditation is that it allows you the opportunity to practice acceptance by teaching you to hold judgment, open yourself to each experience without trying to change or resist it. ᅠ

Ed and Deb Shapiro share their thoughts on how to appreciate impermanence, and has you read through their list of “10 ways to embrace change,” I believe you’ll understand why I such a big fan of their blog posts.

“The world around us is not the same as it was just a moment ago. Babies have been born, people have died, clouds have passed overhead, waves have risen and fallen. Who we are now is not who we were last year, last week, yesterday, even a few minutes ago. Already we have changed, some of our cells have died while others have been created, while our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, ideas, even our relationships are as changeable as the weather or the seasons.

Change happens in the flash of a moment but the ego mind – our self-obsessiveness – needs to make everything appear solid and permanent. We even push death away like an unwanted object; no one actually believes they are going to die.

But just imagine if everything was permanent! Imagine how boring it would be if we were always the same: there would be no butterflies, no full moon, no cherry blossom and no cherries. Change is the reality of life so if we resist it then we are resisting the meaning of being here, which is to be always becoming something different, other than what we were before.

Here are 10 ways to make change your best friend:

1. Accept what is! If you can change something, then do; if you can’t change anything, then release resistance and simply be with what is.

2. Take risks. Life is about not having answers, taking chances and risks, and making the most of every moment, all without knowing what is going to happen next.

3. Be your own best friend. It is easy to blame and shame yourself, but now is the time you deserve the most love and kindness of all.

4. Every day is a new beginning. Each time you take a step forward you have no idea what might happen. But nothing will happen if you continue to stay where you are.

5. Keep falling as long as you keep picking yourself up! Making mistakes is not the problem, but not learning from them and moving on is.

6. Nothing lasts forever, so appreciate every moment fully and completely, as it will never happen again.

7. Think with your heart instead of your head. When you come from your heart you come to your senses!

8. Meditate. Take time to just stop and breathe, to remember why you are here, and to find what is of real meaning to you.

9. Don’t take yourself too seriously. A good sense of humor prevents a hardening of your attitudes, and stops your opinions from getting too rigid!

10. Do something for someone else and make giving to others a part of your life, especially if it is a smile and a hug.”


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Ed and Deb Shapiro are the authors of, “Be the Change,” a new book, on “how meditation can transform you and the world.” And I suppose that changing the world would be considered and large meditation benefit. Click here to visit the original source of this post