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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The Three Stages of the Breath as a Vehicle for Meditation

Three stages of the breath as a vehicle for meditation

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s explore the three elements a bit closer.

Witnessing     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Relaxing the Nervous System

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

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

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

Meditation – Stilling the Mind

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

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

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

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

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

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Meditation Benefits: Finding Time with Meditation

Meditation Benefits: Finding Time with Meditation

Meditation Benefits: Finding Time with Meditation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyone can do this.

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

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

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

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

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Meditation Benefits: What is Meditation?

What is Meditation?

What is Meditation?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Meditation Benefits: Dealing with Distractions in Meditation

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

Meditation Benefits: Dealing with Distractions in Meditation

Dealing with Distractions in Meditation

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Please Meditate Part 5

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

Here’s a another way you can help.

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Meditation benefits: 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.

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

What are the Benefits of a Walking Meditation?

 

What are the Benefits of a Walking Meditation?

What are the Benefits of a Walking Meditation?

Walking meditation is when the act of walking becomes the meditation, mindfulness meditation to be precise, being focused and present to the experience of walking. When you practice walking meditation, you are not trying to get somewhere or accomplish something, like exercise, you let go and enjoy the journey.

The idea in this approach to meditation is to release the mechanical and bring our attention into our bodies and feel what happening within us, all the sensations, as we move through the world.

Aimee Boyle describes the benefits of walking meditation and one approach to the practice. So here I’ll let Aimee describe it…

“Meditation is so often thought of as a practice of sitting still that we often think if we can’t sit still we can’t meditate. Truthfully, many of us don’t even know what meditation really is; there are stereotypes galore, rife with images of oval-fingered, palm-facing-upward serenity and placid facial expressions, candles and gently closed eyelids.

This Article

• Improved My Health

• Changed My Life

• Saved My Life

Although we’ve heard vague notions of stress relief and bliss, many Westerners– unless you’ve purposely led yourself toward meditation or were born into a family which practiced it–do not understand what it is all about. Can you text during a meditation session? Is it all right if the television is on in the background? Do you fall asleep?

Meditation conjures images of quiet and peace, candles and sitting with eyes closed because the very nature of meditation is to undo the overstimulation of the mind and bring it back to a single point of concentrated focus. By letting go of thoughts, images, worries, high excitements and arousals and low despair and depressions, we can reclaim a sense of balance within ourselves spiritually, emotionally and psychologically.

Walking can serve many of the same purposes. All types of exercise have proven to calm one’s mind and bring the energy into alignment, using endorphins as a means of lifting the sense of doom, dread and despair we feel, and oxygenating the blood so that our millions upon billions of thoughts are crowded out by the buzz in our blood and limbs.

By combining walking with meditation you serve the dual purpose of stilling your mind with the purpose of moving your limbs and staying fit, but what’s more helpful, the rhythm of the walking as you feel your feet find their own drumbeat and steady rhythm of your breathing can really bring your mind back into that still, quiet place.

Candles, incense and sitting have their place, of course, there is no doubt whatsoever. But for many of us who become frustrated with ourselves because sitting is so challenging, or for those who want an extra benefit while walking, combining walking and meditating can be extremely beneficial. Walking early in the morning, just after waking up, when the air is cool and the birds are just starting to sing can refresh your spirit and put things in perspective too. Breathe, step, breathe, step, breathe, step, chant, focus, become one with your walk.”

Walking meditation has been practiced alongside the more formal sitting meditation as a way to continue in mindful awareness. This style of meditation practice is a wonderful way to, not only extend your mindfulness practice, but as a way to practice bringing present moment awareness in to your day-to-day experience of the world.

You can actually practice ‘walking meditation’ without actually walking by bringing mindfulness to any movements you make, become aware of how your body feels as you move. How does the bannister feel as you climb the stairs, feel the changes that take place as you stand or even shift your position in your chair.

And when your minds wanders, bring your attention back to the present moment and feel the sensations that happing to you right now. This type of meditation allows you to begin to walk and work in a meditative, calm and relaxed way. Click here to visit the original source of this post

Sally Kempton on “Eat, Pray and Love” and Meditation

Sally Kempton on “Eat, Pray and Love” and Meditation

Sally Kempton on “Eat, Pray and Love” and Meditation

When I sit and become quite and still, I open my heart and see the interconnectedness of things, this isn’t mystical, it’s the way love works. How interchangeable the words, love and meditation, are and when they merge the experience becomes powerful and transformative.

Sally Kempton is one of the best meditation teachers in the world and yet as one would hope from someone who has been studding meditation for over forty years, approachable and unpretentious. I’m saying this in the same with the same caveat that the author of this post, Jean Fain, used, that being, my knowledge of this wonderful teacher has been from a distance, through books, Cd’s and large group meditations.

I’m on my second reading of her new book, “Meditation for the Love of It,” and of the hundreds of books that I’ve read on meditation this one is special and one of the best guides to meditation I’ve had the pleasure to immerse myself in.

Even this interview with Jean Fain, hold insights into approaches to meditation, for example when Sally is asked by Jean, about love and meditation and Sally answers, “Love is what makes meditation juicy, enjoyable, deep.”

I think I’ll let Jean take it from here…

It’s easy to like Sally Kempton, a meditation inspiration to “Eat Pray Love” author Elizabeth Gilbert. Not because Kempton listens carefully or laughs easily, though I’m partial to anyone who can do either in this crazy-busy world. Certainly, her likability has nothing to do with the fact that Gilbert counts herself as one of Kempton’s followers. If anything, claims to fame only raise expectations, making the subject of such claims harder, not easier to like.

No, what makes the beloved meditation teacher so likable is the same thing that makes Gilbert a best-selling author — her special ability to translate subtle life truths into simple, practical and compassion-enhancing lessons.

To be clear, Gilbert has learned from Kempton as I have — from a distance. We’ve both been inspired by Kempton’s written meditations on meditation, but Gilbert has taken that inspiration further. The truth is a little confusing, but to be precise: The ashram Gilbert described in “Eat Pray Love” was founded by Kempton’s original meditation inspiration, Swami Muktananda.

Me, I’ve yet to give Kempton’s new book, “Meditation for the Love of It,” sufficient time. I’m intrigued by what the dust jacket promises: “Practical secrets to help us turn meditation into an unconditional embrace of the fullness of our experience — on and off the meditation cushion.” No surprise, that promise was not fulfilled on first reading. With more time, I’m hoping fulfillment will come.

If you’re reluctant to take my word for Kempton’s likability, consider taking Gilbert’s: “She [Kempton] is not only one of the best meditation teachers in the world; she is also one of us,” Gilbert writes. “She manages to fearlessly explore the outer reaches of the universe without ever losing the warm voice of your dear friend from just around the block.”

Speaking of books, Kempton and I share the same publisher. Because of that, we got to talking about our shared interests: eating, meditating and loving. Before I share select questions and answers from our recent phone conversation, I must say that while we resonate with that old Beatles’ song, “All You Need Is Love,” and we appreciate a heart-opening meditation and a mouth-watering dessert, we don’t see eye to eye on everything. Rather than simply agreeing to disagree, you’ll see that our unspoken agreement is to the open, honest and playful exchange of ideas.

Q. What drew you to meditation?

A. In my late 20s, I realized I didn’t really know who I was. I was following the path of success in NY, and doing pretty well — writing for magazines, dating, known in my circle for being cool — but there was a pervasive feeling of not being satisfied by any of it. It was literally as though my heart wasn’t in it. Even though I was doing everything I was ‘supposed’ to do in life, I found myself asking: “Is this all there is?”

Q. OK, so you were dissatisfied. But you were following in the footsteps of your dad [the late Newsday columnist Murray Kempton.] Why did you trade journalism for meditation?

A. I didn’t exactly trade journalism for meditation. Once a writer always a writer! My writing simply morphed as my priorities morphed… What changed my trajectory was a spontaneous and very radical awakening of my heart, which arrived out of nowhere and shifted my priorities in an instant. The problem was, I couldn’t hold onto the open-heart space because my mind was so unruly. So I started looking for ways to tame my mind, and meditation seemed to be it.

Q. Your story sounds a lot like Elizabeth Gilbert’s. You both went through, how do you put it, a “moderate life crisis”?

A. Yes, she and I have a lot in common. We’re both social observers — we’re both interested in the way society works, love works, relationships work. We’re both radically independent. We were both operating in a male-dominated publishing world – she wrote for GQ; I wrote for Esquire. And we were both drawn to the same kind of [heart-based] spirituality.

Q. Elizabeth Gilbert says your writings have been “life-saving.” Do you know what she means by that?

A. People often tell me that the book inspires them to want to meditate. This is probably what she meant. In the book, I suggest a path of playfulness and experimentation that helps people get past barriers and deeper into the exquisite spaciousness of their inner world. There’s this enormous treasure house inside of us. Most of us get to the door, catch a glimpse, but can’t go further. There was a time in my practice when I reached this same limit in how deep I could go. By experimenting with different ways of meditating, I learned how to go much deeper. What I share in the book is the approach that let me do that along with a lot of practices, some classical, some fairly original.

Q. You prescribe a variety of love-enhancing meditations in your book. What’s love got to do with it?

A. Love is what makes meditation juicy, enjoyable, deep. When love is lacking, I’ve learned in my many years of teaching, meditation can start to feel dry, dutiful, unconnected to our emotional life, and then eventually we don’t want to do it anymore. But if you kindle love in your meditation, it not only makes your practice juicy, it begins to spill out into your actions and interactions with other people. It starts to change the way you are in the world.

Q. Do you have a favorite love-kindling meditation?

A. My favorite is to let the breath draw your attention to the upper chest, behind the breast bone, right to the physical heart. On the inhalation, feel the breath caressing your heart. On the exhalation, feel the breath softening or expanding the heart. As you do this, a tender, loving energy arises.

Q. Living with an open, loving heart in this sometimes cold, cruel world sounds scary and difficult, if not impossible. But you clearly recommend it. Why?

A. When your heart is open, you have infinitely more power. Many students tell me when they make this practice a part of their life, they’re better able to navigate difficult situations. The can speak from the heart; their words have more impact. It helps them deal with an unruly teenager, an out-of-control manager, a lot of situations in which they’d ordinarily be reactive.

Q. You encourage readers to meditate a daunting one-and-a-half to three hours a day? Seriously?

A. That’s only for people interested in a radical experience of depth in meditation. For everyone else, I recommend starting with 20 minutes day. If it’s hard to sit still, start with five minutes, and add a minute a day.

Q. What’s your daily meditation practice like? Click here to continue by visiting the original source of this post

“Eat, Pray and Love” and Meditation, whether you are speaking about Elizabeth Gilberts book or Sally Kempton’s, they are about opening the heart and the expansion of our awareness moving us from self-centeredness to other-centeredness.

This reminds me, Sally has a wonderful CD called the “Awakened Heart,” with two guided meditations, which if you really would like to spend some quality time with one of the most knowledgeable meditation teachers in the world and connecting with your inner presence, I would highly recommend it.

 

I Want the Benefits of Meditation Now

While many people believe is sitting cross legged with their eyes closed is the only way to experience meditation. However, you can also experience the benefits of meditation while in in any activity, especially those that requires repetitive actions or deep focus.

I Want the Benefits of Meditation Now

I Want the Benefits of Meditation Now

 

Meditation is a natural part of life and just like vegetables in a garden it can arise as a “volunteer” but it will ‘grow’ and bear more fruit if cultivated and patience is required before the benefits can be harvested.

In her post Beth, started out with the attitude towards meditation that is reminiscent of a sign, placed as a joke, in some gardens which says, “Grow dammit!”  That was Beth’s approach, but I’ll let her tell the story…

Most people, myself included, begin meditating to become a happier person and to create a more peaceful and fulfilling life. Of course, many of us want it all NOW.

It’s Ok if meditation’s going to be difficult the first one or two times, but more than that it’s really irritating. I’m not meditating to get more frustrated and agitated. I want peacefulness.

I also wanted patience, now. I wanted to see, feel, and hear the fruits of meditation within the first few weeks. Of course, the more impatient I got, the more difficult the meditation became – and so the cycle spiraled downhill into self-anger (why can’t I do a better job?) and anger at meditation (why isn’t it working … for me?).

Yes, I heard long-term meditators say and write that change happens underneath the surface of day-to-day living. That slowly they see subtle changes until life just seems to have shifted for them. And they became happier people.

I heard them, but thought that I should be different – somehow better, faster, and less messy than others. And so, I struggled with meditation, impatient with the lack of visible and rapid progress.

Then, with time, meditation’s mystery and miracle shifted my thinking (the brain’s wiring, also). Slowly, I gained a modicum of grace and peace with my practice. I developed patience with meditations that didn’t go perfectly (as I defined it). At the same time, I gained greater acceptance with my life in general.

In fact, my definition of the “perfect” meditation evolved to every meditation is perfect as long as I just do it. I’ve become patient with the process, accepting whatever occurs. That doesn’t mean I’m pleased with the way every meditation goes. It does mean, however, that I’m open to the process, trusting that it will continue working its magic.

Whomever you are and where ever you are reading this, please know that meditation will bring untold gifts into your life, even if you’re not seeing them now. Please trust the process and let it naturally, spontaneously bring patience and magic into your life.

Beth ended with a quote that continued the gardening metaphor, by American Buddhist nun, Thubten Chodron…

When you plant seeds in the garden, you don’t dig them up every day to see if they have sprouted yet. You simply water them and clear away the weeds; you know that the seeds will grow in time. Similarly, just do your daily practice and cultivate a kind heart. Abandon impatience and instead be content creating the causes for goodness; the results will come when they’re ready.