Prayer and Meditation

OCD Expert Who Recommends Meditation as Therapy Is the Focus of New eBook

OCD Expert Who Recommends Meditation as Therapy Is the Focus of New eBook

by

Editor at Open Minds Magazine

Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz applies Buddhist teachings to his work with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and bucks the mainstream belief that the brain is a static organ that dictates our actions. So it is no wonder that he is a controversial figure.

The amazing thing is that he has proven to be right, and has shown that mindfulness meditation can be effective at reducing the effects of OCD. In part, by utilizing what he calls “self-directed neuroplasticity.” In other words, the idea is that we can use meditation to physically rewire our brains. A process I believe I have utilized myself to improve my outlook and health.

Steve Volk’s new book OBSESSED: The Compulsions and Creations of Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz, is the first offering by Discovery magazine’s Discovery In-Depth series. It is available via Kindle single on Amazon.

In the book, Volk examines Schwartz as a scientist and a person. He describes Schwartz as a “pariah among his academic peers,” and “a man battling demons of his own.” Schwartz is often combative, and has a tough time with personal relationships. However, Volk says Schwartz was very open and willing to let Volk spend a lot of time with him, which Volk says is rare in the scientific community. Volk believes Schwartz really just wants to be understood.

Despite his quirks, Schwartz has made substantial contributions to the understanding and treatment of OCD. Volk says his ideas used to be taken lightly, but “he helped produce this shift where now people take mindfulness very very seriously as an effective therapy.”

I find his work fascinating because it relates to the existential question of who we are. As Volk explains it, some scientists believe “our whole selves and our choices are all dictated by physical processes in the brain, and a lot of people take this to mean we don’t have any free will.”

But what if we choose to be different, and in doing so change our brain physically? It sounds fantastic to be able to change the inner workings of our brains by thought alone, but it is now believed it happens, and it is called neuroplasticity. Volk explains, “Schwartz says his therapy, which involves shifting your attention in particular ways in regard to your illness, he says this shows we do have free will and we are not our brains.”

Years ago I learned through studying meditation techniques, methods similar to what Schwartz teaches, and they have helped transform my life. Buddhists teach that in mindfulness mediation one can view their thoughts and self impartially. In doing so one can identify behaviors that are not helpful, and purposefully change the way they react to certain situations. In this way we can choose to alleviate our own suffering, which Buddhists believe we cause ourselves.

For instance, let’s say you get flipped off on the highway on the way to work. That can be kind of frustrating. Some people are prone to get really upset, and then have a terrible morning. In mindful mediation one lets go of emotional static to reflect on oneself and the ways we cause our own suffering.

In reflecting upon why we had a bad morning and realizing it was because somebody flipped us off, we can see that it was our reaction to this event that caused the suffering for the rest of the morning. We can then choose to react differently. I have chosen to smile and wave at people who flip me off, and wish them a good day. I then leave the situation chuckling, while the flipper offer continues on their grouchy way.

This is us choosing to modify our behavior. It may be difficult at first, but as we continue to act out this new behavior, neuroplasticity is at work changing our neural pathways and making this reaction easier to accomplish. One thing I remind myself in these situations is that I cannot let another’s dysfunction become my dysfunction. Just because their brain is wired to be a total jerk, doesn’t mean I have to let mine be wired that way.

In using these methods to help OCD patients alleviate their symptoms, Volk says in his book, “what Schwartz had proven was that his patients could rewire their brains (and reinvent their lives) through sheer force of will, with thought alone.”

Volk says he was inspired to write the book because he has also benefited from “self-directed neuroplasticity.” Beyond that, Volk says, “I really enjoy being able to tell the story about this guy operating on sort of the fringes of things.”  See Video: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alejandro-rojas/ocd-expert-stars-in-ebook_b_4119218.html

Not surprising coming from a guy who also authored a book called, Fringe-ology: How I Tried to Explain Away the Unexplainable — And Couldn’t.

Tommy Rosen: Recovery 2.0: Yoga and Meditation for People in Recovery From Addiction

Addiction is a disease of “lack.” At the core level, we feel something is missing and we set out to try to fill the void through a set of behaviors that leave us further depleted. We damage the systems of our body and sap ourselves of “life force.” Our endocrine system gets taxed. Our nervous system is overworked. We live in nearly constant fight or flight, bringing on the horrible consequences of stress.

In my opinion, the 12 steps provide a wonderful path to overcome acute addiction. They work almost always, I think, if you put your energy and focus into them. The great promise they delivered to me was that the desire to do drugs and alcohol was removed altogether. That’s a HUGE statement, a miracle really. Yet, there are three important things that the 12 steps do not address: body, breath and diet. Interestingly, these three things are the irreplaceable building blocks, the essential amino acids if you will, for a stronger recovery and a more successful, enjoyable life.

Think of recovery as a multi-tiered process in which different people need different things at different times. If a person is mired in acute addiction to any of the big five — drugs, alcohol, food, sex or money — then that must be dealt with first. That is where Recovery 1.0 or the 12 steps come in. A person has to detoxify first. One must have a community to support the epic and imminent transformation that takes place in early recovery. After some time, and this varies from person to person, one’s energy and “frequency” rises up and permits the practice of yoga, breath work and meditation. This is where Recovery 2.0 comes in. This is a great benchmark on the path of recovery, and if taken with intention, awareness and proper guidance from a mentor or teacher, one has the opportunity to make a lot of progress.

I do not feel that yoga and meditation are optional for people in recovery. Life will simply be better with practice than without it. Of course, one can stay sober without yoga and meditation. It’s just that if you want to lift yourself up out of the energy of addiction and break through to a new level of strength and awareness, one will have to adopt a practice that continues the detoxification process on a much deeper level.

I learned the hard way what it means to be sober while still stuck in the energy of addiction. I had put the drugs and alcohol down, but other addictions, stresses and dis-ease plagued me for many years into my recovery. It was not until I found Kundalini Yoga and gained a deeper understanding of Vinyasa that I began to re-claim my self and break through the force field of addiction perhaps for the first time in my life.

Here I am now 11 years later. I teach people in recovery how to apply these tools to their lives so that they, too, can experience the freedom that was given to me by my teacher, Guru Prem, and these amazing practices he shared with me.

On Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. at Golden Bridge Yoga in Santa Monica, I teach Yoga and Recovery. We do one hour of yoga and then circle up to have a one-hour 12-step meeting where everyone is welcome. We will see more and more of this I feel, as people realize the tremendous benefit of yoga as a cornerstone of one’s recovery path.

if you or anyone you know has been touched by addiction and are interested in exploring what Recovery 2.0 has to offer, connect with me here.

Please leave comments here below so we can be more connected. I would love to have a better sense of who you are and what your recovery journey is like.

With Love and Gratitude,

Tommy Rosen

I just released the first two titles in the Recovery 2.0 DVD series to help people who struggle with addiction of all kinds. These first two Recovery 2.0 DVDs bring together some of my most cherished yoga sets and meditations. There is an amazing soundtrack featuring the uplifting music of Aykanna and Earthrise Soundsystem. These practices are accessible to most people who have detoxed off of drugs and alcohol. They have made a huge difference in my life and I hope they will for you, too.

Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.

via Tommy Rosen: Recovery 2.0: Yoga and Meditation for People in Recovery From Addiction.

Lewis Richmond: Is Meditation Narcissistic? on Huffington Post

Is meditation narcissistic? The short answer is: it depends. The act of sitting in silence, eyes closed or facing a wall, attention focused on the inner landscape of breath, body and mental activity, could at least be characterized as self-absorbed — some might call it navel gazing. The term “navel gazing,” which the dictionary defines as “useless or excessive self-contemplation,” was originally a concentration practice of Hindu Yoga. Jack Engler , a psychotherapist and Buddhist teacher, has written extensively about the wrong use of meditation by psychologically unbalanced people. In the book “Buddhism & Psychotherapy,” he speaks of those who “practice meditation in the service of defense, rather than self-awareness.” Engler’s contributions are part of a growing literature about the many ways that the goal of true meditation can be subverted by those with a distorted motivation.

Motivation indeed is the key. While “right meditation” is the eighth spoke in the wheel of the eight-fold path, “right motivation” is the second. When Gautama, the Buddha-to-be, confronts Mara the Tempter, he dismisses Mara by saying, “You are not striving for the welfare of the world.” In other words, Mara — who could be seen as the narcissistic shadow of the Buddha — lacks correct motivation. Mara wants the fruit of spiritual practice to satisfy his own selfish needs for power, status, security or perfection. Perhaps today’s Western practitioners leap a bit too quickly into the innerness of meditation without a thorough grounding in all the other spokes of the Path — “right view,” “right intention” and so on.

These days I am growing less fond of this prefix “right,” which is a legacy of 19th century scholarship. To my ear “right” is a bit superior-sounding and moralistic. I have come to prefer simply “Buddhist” — Buddhist view, Buddhist motivation, Buddhist action, Buddhist speech, Buddhist livelihood, Buddhist effort, Buddhist mindfulness, Buddhist meditation. There are other paths; this is the Buddhist one. Each of these eight spokes are important; each supports the others and helps keep Mara-like self-absorption at bay. Emphasizing one at the expense of the others is not salutary.

The prince Siddhartha left the palace and took up the life of a monk not because he needed more adulation, wealth or influence (he already had those things) but because he wanted to clearly understand the causes of suffering and how to assuage it. In many places throughout the Sutras, the Buddha says this, “I teach suffering and the cause of suffering.” In other words, Buddha strives for the welfare of the world; that is his work.

This concern for the suffering of others is not an idea; it is a deeply emotional response. Siddhartha was upset by the suffering he saw, a powerful emotional reaction that changed his life. This is described often in Buddhist scripture. The Vimalakirti Sutra begins with the news that the Bodhisattva Vimalakirti is sick. When the disciples of the Buddha go to visit him, Vimalakirti explains that he is sick because all sentient beings are sick. And in the “Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life ,” Santideva says that while an ordinary person experiences the suffering of others like a grain of sand in the palm of the hand, for the Bodhisattva it is like a grain of sand in the eye. Suffering is painful; the Bodhisattva feels that pain on behalf of others.

Meditation practiced in this spirit and with this motivation is not at all narcissistic; in fact, it is narcissism’s opposite. Neuroscientists are now looking at the brain scans of people with strong narcissistic tendencies, and are seeing anomalies in the region of the frontal lobe having to do with emotional response. It is not clear yet how this might relate to Buddhist practice, but it supports Jack Engler’s observations about people who practice meditation to armor themselves against feeling.

Buddhist Motivation is not some elementary or preparatory practice to be left behind once meditation begins. Cultivating Buddhist motivation is a lifelong endeavor, because the tendency to slip into self-aggrandizement does not necessarily diminish as one’s spiritual prowess grows. In fact, it can increase. In many meditation traditions — including my own school of Zen — every period of meditation begins with a recitation of the four Bodhisattva vows, and concludes with a dedication to the welfare of all beings. Buddhist meditation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It is not navel gazing; it is deeply relational.

The Eightfold Path was designed to be practiced as a seamless whole. Otherwise things can go awry. Any single practice or effort can go off the rails. Mara’s stratagems are indefatigable and ingenious. The ego constantly looks for ways to bend the benefits of the practice back toward the self and its selfish needs. It helps to have other people — practice companions, good spiritual friends and teachers — to watch you and point out where you might be veering off.

One contemporary Japanese Zen teacher, when asked by a student what was the most important principle of Zen practice, replied, “Look under your own feet.” We must ask, are we standing on solid ground, or on quicksand? This question is the continuous life koan of every seeker of the truth and every aspirant for wisdom.

via Lewis Richmond: Is Meditation Narcissistic?.

Sura: Video: Start Your Meditation Practice With 60 Seconds

Learning how to center yourself and slow down the mind is an invaluable aspect of health. Meditation is an excellent tool for learning how to be present. There are many benefits to learning how to meditate: It helps to decrease tension, lower blood pressure and improve emotional balance. It is also known to change the brain, by improving parts of the brain associated to memory and learning and decreasing matter of the brain associated to stress and anxiety.

If you’re interested in meditation and how to get started, watch this three-minute video introduction. It also includes a six-minute guided video link.

Take a deep breath, relax your body and fully receive this moment, as if it is the first moment you’ve ever experienced.

Please enjoy.

Click here for a guided meditation video.

For more by Sura, click here.

For more on meditation, click here.

via Sura: Video: Start Your Meditation Practice With 60 Seconds.

Sadhguru: Meditation: The End of Suffering from Huff Post

Meditation is not something that you do; meditation is something that you become. Meditation is not an act; it is a certain quality that you grow into. Why is there a need to become meditative, first of all?

When you were born, you were so small. And now, you have grown your body. Obviously, the body is something that you gathered; it is an accumulation. Similarly, the mind is also an accumulation. The body is an accumulation of food; the mind is an accumulation of impressions. Whatever you accumulate can be yours, but it can never be you, because the very fact that you accumulate means you gather something from somewhere else. Let us say you gathered a 150-pound body; if you are determined, in a few days, you could make it 140 pounds. Where did these 10 pounds of body go? You would not go looking for them, because they are an accumulation.

Once you get identified with things that you have gathered from the outside, your perception has completely gone haywire; you cannot perceive life the way it is. The moment you experience the body as “myself,” and the moment you experience the impressions that you have in your mind as “myself,” you cannot perceive life the way it is. You can only perceive life the way it is necessary for your survival. For a human being, survival is very important, but it is not enough. For any other creature on this planet, when the stomach is full, life is settled. But for a human being, life does not end with the survival process. Actually, for a human being, life begins only after survival is fulfilled.

Meditation means giving you an experience, an inner state, where what is you and what is yours is separate. It brings an absolute clarity of perception; you see life just the way it is. Right now, your ability to go through this world is only to the extent that you clearly see it. For example, for thousands of years, people went on arguing about whether the planet is round or flat. Leave all the textbooks that you have read aside, take a walk and see — in your experience, is this planet round or flat? In your experience, it is still flat. This argument could have continued forever, but man started flying. We went up and looked down and it was very clear that the planet was round. We even went to the moon and looked down, and it was 100 percent clear. Only when we removed ourselves from this earth and looked down was there no more argument about it. Otherwise, we would still be arguing.

The same is true for your own body and mind; unless there is a little distance, you don’t see it the way it is, because you are in it. Meditation is a simple process that gives you a little distance from your own mind and your own body. You have probably heard of the word “Buddha.” Bu means “buddhi,” or the intellect. Dha means “dada,” or one who is above. One who is above his intellect is a Buddha. A Buddha has clear perception of the nature of his mind. One who is in the intellect is a nonstop suffering human being.

Look at this sincerely. Whatever you experience as moments of happiness and peacefulness are just those moments where you are able to leave anxiety, tension and stress behind. But if you turn back, they will be sitting right there, because once you are in your intellect, stress, anxiety and tension are very normal. But if you are above the intellect, it is the end of suffering. Being a Buddha means there is no question of suffering, because suffering has either come through your body or through your mind. Do you know any other kind of suffering other than physical and mental suffering? Once there is a distance from your physical body and your mental structure, that is the end of suffering.

Meditation is the first and the last freedom, because it gives you a gallery view of your own body and your own mind. There can be no suffering once this distance is established.

Article from Huffington Post: Sadhguru: Meditation: The End of Suffering.

Sadhguru will teach programs in London Feb. 9-10, 2013 and Atlanta April 19-21, 2013.

For more articles by Sadhguru, click here.

 

HuffPost: The Best Friend You Will Ever Have: Meditation

Ed and Deb Shapiro: The Best Friend You Will Ever Have: Meditation.

Honestly speaking, we cannot imagine how our lives would be without meditation. As soon as we become still and quiet we enter a calm spaciousness within which our questions are answered while difference and dramas dissolve. Such stillness always comes as a great relief from the madness each day can contain.

Some years ago we were attending a silent meditation retreat. Each day we were asked if we were feeling happier than we were the day before. The inquiring monk had a contagious smile, knowing that we were each confronting numerous obstacles to our happiness, primarily the ones in our own heads.

Yet despite his humor, the monk’s question was sincere. If we were not beginning to feel happier from practicing meditation, then what was the point of doing it?

We were asked the same question each day. To begin with this emphasized how preoccupied we were with inner confusion, doubts, conflicts, and discomfort, even how difficulties could actually feel more familiar than joy. Yet, why be there if we were struggling so much that we weren’t enjoying it?

Our smiley monk was teaching us that it is vital to make friends with meditation, that it is not your adversary. Rather, meditation is a companion to have throughout life, like a best friend we turn to when things get hard to deal with and we are in need of inspiration, clarity, and even inner happiness.

Admittedly, meditation can sometimes appear insurmountable, but it is our own mind that contains the obstacles, not the practice of sitting quietly, as the chattering mind can create endless dramas. Practicing meditation means slowly and gently training the mind to do something it may not have done before: be quiet and still.

One way to overcome resistance and make meditation your friend is to start by just sitting for a few minutes at a time, instead of feeling you have to meditate and then feeling guilty if you miss the allotted time or only do 10 minutes when you had said you would do 30. It’s far more important to practice for just a few minutes and to enjoy what you are doing than to sit there, teeth gritted, because you have been told that only 30 minutes will have any affect.

If your purpose is to try to achieve a quiet mind then the trying itself will create tension and failure. Instead, you are just with whatever is happening in the moment, whether it is pleasant or unpleasant. No judgment, no right or wrong. Watching whatever arises and letting it go is all that is required. It is more of an undoing than a doing.

During meditation we gently let go of distractions so we can genuinely be present. Like a child watching an ant walking down the sidewalk carrying a crumb, that is all that exists in their world at that moment. They are not thinking about what they had for breakfast, or what they will do with their best friend at their next play date. They are only watching the ant.

Meditation enables us to stop trying, to let go of the story, the dramas, our stressed mind, and to discover an inner easefulness. Some people describe this as a sense of coming home, as if they had been away or out of touch with themselves without even realizing it; others experience it as a huge relief as there is a release of anxiety and self-centeredness and they enter into a more peaceful state of being. And many feel as if they are simply hanging out with a good old friend, always there when needed.

Can you see meditation as your BFF (best friend forever)? Do comment below. You can receive notice of our blogs every Thursday by checking Become a Fan at the top.

If you would like to experience how meditation is your friend, join us for a four-week webinar starting July 9.