We can define suffering as, a pain that feels as if it will never heal, one that makes life feel meaningless. We will all, at some point in our lives, suffer, loss, grief and loneliness, because it is part of the inevitable process of life. And if that sadness and grief builds up it will become depression.
In searching for a meaning to suffering, especially from a spiritual perspective, Deepak Chopra, in his book, “The Deeper Wound,” says that there are three answers. The first answer, based on nature, is that suffering is an inevitable part of life. The second answer says that we humans suffer from the inside out and is the result of sin and ‘wrongdoing,’ which cause us to feel shame and guilt. The third and last answer is the one based on transformation, which says that within suffering there is a hidden spiritual message, the seeds of the transformation and that makes it very different from the first two. The message contained in the third is that out of suffering can come love.
Through meditation it’s possible to heal suffering, to hold it gently and lovingly. With meditation you become aware of your thoughts, images and memories which keep reoccurring and you open yourself up to the whole range of experiences that surround suffering. With awareness there is the opportunity to transform suffering and you may discover that your emotions are not as overpowering or infinite as you feared.
Meditation offers the opportunity for continual awareness so that you can ‘name’ the emotion, a process that will allow most emotions to flow through the body and begin releasing; a process that you keep gently repeating as many times as the persistent emotions arise.
In this excerpt, reprinted on the “care2″ website, Deepak offers us a meditation for the heart…
“The ache of loss is difficult to bear, and often the worst part is the fear that nothing exists behind the ache except a void. Know that emptiness is an illusion. No matter how much you have suffered, your soul sees you as whole.
Affirm today that you share this vision and have the intention to allow the light of spirit to come in and fill any voids it may find. To aid in this repair, close your eyes and see white light surrounding you like a bubble or cocoon. Visualize the light filling the entire space within you, seeking out rifts, tears, holes, and gaps. Ask for these to be completely filled with light.
One of the worst parts of suffering a great loss is the feeling of utter isolation. The problem of loneliness, which exists for countless people, requires deeper healing than simply seeking out company. Loneliness can happen in a crowd and may feel most intense when you find yourself alone on a packed city street.
As a child it was easier to cure loneliness, because the presence of a parent was enough to offer reassurance. As an adult, loneliness becomes more existential – it feels as if you have been abandoned, yet you cannot say by whom.
Invite spirit in with a meditation on the heart. Sit quietly for a moment, placing your attention on your heart, at the center of your chest under the breastbone. When you are settled, repeat the word “peace” silently, and see its influence radiating out from your body in all directions. Do this three times, and then say the word “happiness” the same way. Repeat three times, then go on to “harmony,” “laughter,” and “love.”
Sit quietly for a few minutes after each session with eyes closed and simply appreciate the simplicity of quiet awareness. End it by sitting quietly and asking to be allowed into the refuge of your heart. Feel your heart as a soft, warm enclosure; settle there with your attention, and rest as long as you wish. If you repeat this technique enough times, you will find that the presence of spirit is very real and accessible.”
Pain and suffering are not always the same thing, there are many ways to relieve pain, but relief of suffering comes with self-awareness or spirituality. Here Deepak offers us the following wisdom, suffering is a paradox because suffering “ennobles people, teachers us lessons, guides us toward insight, and purifies our nature.”
If you would like deeper insight and help with how to hold and release suffering cause by loneliness and loss, then I would recommend reading “The Deeper Wound,” and practicing the “Heart Sutra.”
Ed and deb Shapiro are living their purpose, and it’s the very same purpose that’s everyone reason for being, and that’s to be happy. When we really examine the motivation for every choice we make, we discover that we make all of them because we believe that the outcome of those choices will bring us happiness.
Meditation is a powerful way to help us shape and guide our thinking. And meditation is the path that the Shapiro’s have chosen to guide them on this journey in the pursuit of happiness.
Their new book, “Be the Change,” is already a treasured part of my meditation library. It contains the wisdom of more than one hundred meditation teachers sharing their thoughts on various subjects related to the practice of meditation, as well as, some of their own thoughts.
In this post they share some of that wisdom by sharing with us 8 ways you can benefit from meditation and how the practice can create more happiness in your life…
“We can’t imagine what life would be like without meditation. It has seen us through tough times and many life changes, keeping us sane and grounded and real. Life is challenging enough, we can never know what will arise next and only when our minds are clear and focused can we make the best decisions.
How are you able to deal with the madness and chaos that occurs daily? How do you deal with the challenges of life? Meditation is highly misunderstood and often under-rated yet is perhaps what it takes to be a truly sane person. How does meditation affect us? How does it shift our priorities, enable us to make friends with ourselves, to find answers to our questions?
Here are eight ways meditation can make your life more meaningful and enjoyable!
1. Living With Kindness
No one deserves your kindness and compassion more than yourself. Every time you see or feel suffering, every time you make a mistake or say something stupid and are just about to put yourself down, every time you think of someone you are having a hard time with, every time you encounter the confusion and difficulty of being human, every time you see someone else struggling, upset, or irritated, you can stop and bring loving kindness and compassion. Breathing gently, silently repeat: May I be well, may I be happy, May I be filled with loving kindness.
2. Lightening the Load
In a stressed state, it is easy to lose touch with inner peace, compassion and kindness; in a relaxed state, your mind is clear and you can connect with a deeper sense of purpose and altruism. Meditation and medication are derived from the Latin word medicus, to care or to cure. A time of quiet calmness is, therefore, the most effective remedy for a busy and overworked mind. Anytime you feel stress rising, heart closing, mind going into overwhelm, just bring your focus to your breathing and quietly repeat with each in- and out-breath: Breathing in, I calm the body and mind; breathing out, I smile.
3. Letting Go of Me
Stillness is always there between the thoughts, behind the story, beneath the noise. What keeps us from experiencing our natural state of being is the habitual and ego-dominated monkey mind. Meditation enables us to see clearly, to witness our thoughts and behavior and reduce self-involvement. Without such a practice of self-reflection there is no way of putting a brake on the ego’s demands. From being self-centered, we can become other-centered, concerned about the welfare of all.
4. Dissolving Anger and Fear
We do not accept or release our negative feelings so easily, we are more likely to repress or disown them. But when denied they cause shame, depression, anger, and anxiety. Meditation invites you to openly meet these places, and to see how selfishness, aversion and ignorance create endless dramas and fears. Beneath these is a quiet stillness where you can get to know yourself; this is a wondrous and beautiful experience. Whether you practice for just ten minutes a day or longer does not matter. You are releasing your limitations, while opening to self-acceptance and awareness.”
I’ve included four of the eight way meditation can change your life, if here you want to read the rest (something I would recommend) just click continue.
I thought it would be appropriate to end this post with a quote from Robert Thurman, from his forward to “Be the Change,” on finding your true purpose.
“The great mystics of Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam were all blown away when they found nirvana or the kingdom of God within. We need not think they are so far beyond us. All of them patiently told us we could find our true purpose, discover our real meaningfulness, and actually enjoy happiness.”
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.
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.
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.
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
Scientific reductionism has its place, but much can be lost or overlooked when the whole is not kept in view, and that has never been more true than when science has investigated Transcendental meditation benefits, or any of the benefits of meditation.
Dissecting what is at its core is essentially a spiritual practice to understand its benefits carries with it the risk that the essence, its ineffable qualities, which in the end contain its greatest benefit and impact, will be lost.
Philip Goldberg’s excellent post on this topic is as eloquent as it is informative, so I’m going to let Philip’s post speak for itself…ﾠ
“…In 1975, “TM: Discovering Inner Energy and Overcoming Stress” was propelled onto the list when its lead author, psychiatrist Harold Bloomfield, appeared on Merv Griffin’s syndicated TV talk show (the Oprah of its day) with TM founder Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The book remained a bestseller for six months, and then had a solid run on the paperback list. During that period, Merv devoted a second show to Maharishi, and TM centers could barely keep up with the demand. By the end of 1976, over a million Americans had learned to meditate.
This was the culmination of a remarkable eight-year run that began when the Beatles famously learned the TM and sojourned at Maharishi’s ashram in India. Between that watershed moment and the two Merv programs, meditation moved from the counterculture to the mainstream, from weird to respectable, from youthful mind expansion to middle-age stress remedy. Now, the celebrity meditators were not rock stars but Clint Eastwood and Mary Tyler Moore, and you could not get more mainstream than the nation’s big screen hero and its TV sweetheart.
The route from esoteric mystical discipline to respectable relaxation technique was paved by science. It started in the late ’60s when a young meditator named Robert Keith Wallace was persuaded by his guru, Maharishi, to study the physiology of TM. The research became his Ph.D. dissertation, and then a Science magazine article in 1970. Wallace’s follow-up study, conducted with Harvard cardiologist Herbert Benson, was published in 1971 in The American Journal of Physiology and Scientific American. The data sparked an avalanche of research. By 1975, a substantial body of evidence had demonstrated the efficacy of meditation on various measures of physical and mental health.
Now comes another psychiatrist, Norman E. Rosenthal, with “Transcendence: Healing and Transformation through Transcendental Meditation.” Once again, celebrity endorsements add pizzazz, in this case Mehmet Oz, David Lynch, Martin Scorcese and Russell Simmons, with cameo appearances by the gray eminences, Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney. And once again science confers credibility. Whereas Bloomfield was fresh out of his Yale residency when Merv Griffin showcased his book, Rosenthal has 30 years of distinguished clinical research and more than 200 scholarly articles under his belt. And by now TM has been the subject of over 300 peer-reviewed articles. The book describes the most recent findings, many of them involving common maladies such as ADHD, PTSD and hypertension, but not limited to medical conditions.
That meditation is good for you is no longer an eye-opening news flash. But the new book’s bestsellerdom suggests that a new generation wants to hear the message. In this era of soaring anxiety, depression and health costs, perhaps the only people who don’t think that’s a good thing are the makers of pharmaceuticals.
As someone who has chronicled the transmission of Eastern spirituality to the West, I hope that this time around we can avoid some of the pitfalls of the past. As the title of Rosenthal’s book “Transcendence,” suggests, meditation is not just a medical intervention. The deeper purpose has always been the development of higher consciousness, as described in the Vedic tradition from which practices like TM derive. But when yogic methods become medicalized and their benefits quantified, they tend to get disconnected from their spiritual roots — a loss for all of us.
Another consequence of the popularization of meditation was the rise of imitation practices. Health experts, self-help mavens and entrepreneurs did everything they could to de-Hinduize and de-Indianize the practice. Recently, we’ve seen a similar tendency as practices derived from Buddhism were secularized as “mindfulness.” The advantage of this adaptation, of course, is that it makes such practices far more accessible. The downside is that something vital can be lost in translation, thereby diminishing their effectiveness. Modernizing the language is one thing, but tinkering with the ingredients of a meditation practice is not unlike changing a medical formula or a food recipe..”.ﾠ
In his conclusion on Transcendental meditation benefits, Philip address another common trap or belief about the benefits of meditation, which is that all approaches to meditation carry with them the same benefits. However as Philip points out, recent research has begun to set the record straight. ﾠClick here to visit the original source of this post