Why Meditation

Robert Piper: Meditation: America’s New Pushup

The pushup has been a standard part of being American. If you grow up in America and go to school, one of the first things you’re taught in gym class is how to do a pushup. Millions of Americans do pushups before work, during their lunch break, and at the gym. Because of pushups, we’ve mastered getting ripped pectorals, deltoids, and triceps.

However, we’ve done horrible at managing stress.

Stress costs American businesses around $300 billion a year. Stress is one of the most common long-term absences in the workplace. NBC’s chief medical editor, Dr. Nancy Snyderman, recently said: “Stress is a huge factor when we look at medical problems such as obesity, hypertension, diabetes, cardiac disease.”

Millions of people in America are paying for an overstressed lifestyle: More than 25 million American suffer from diabetes, and some 74 million have high blood pressure. Stress shrinks our brains, may cause depression, and people who are stressed have higher risk for a stroke.

Several of my friends are driven business-savvy men and women with Type A personalities; they like to tease me about how I do meditation. Until one day, on a Friday night one of them pulled me aside and said, “Hey, I have really bad stress problems. Can you tell me about meditation?” He wasn’t the first of my friends to do this; I’ve heard the same line from a few of them. I stopped over at one of my friend’s house, who lives in an expensive high rise in Chicago and works 100 hours week. When he opened the door, he was grinding his teeth, and looked like he hadn’t slept in a week. My first words were, “Stressed out?” He responded, “Yeah, terribly stressed.”

This seems to be the culture of America; everything is go, go, go! No wonder the majority of heart attacks in America is on Monday morning. Another guy I know had band aids on his thumbs, from typing so many emails on his BlackBerry keyboard. He types more than 100 emails a day on the thing — the skin on his thumbs were actually peeling off. He was so stressed; it was difficult just to have a conversation with him.

It seems like this fable of The Lion and Gazelle is installed into the psyche of American culture, “Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up, it knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the lion or a gazelle — when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.”

We don’t have to live like this; we can still be successful and relaxed at the same time if we incorporate meditation into our culture. There’s nothing wrong with a culture full of ambitious men and women; I just want to see more people relax.

I teach meditation to a lot of very wealthy Type A personalities, and one of the things I see with Type As is a lot of them have forgotten how to breathe. The first thing I teach them is to breathe naturally.

Simple mindful breaks throughout the day will do wonders to the culture as a whole. If we all looked at our breathing and checked in with ourselves throughout the day, we would feel a lot better.

Here’s a simple meditation that anyone can do.

1. Find a comfortable place to sit in a chair, close your eyes, bring your awareness to your breathing.

2. Take a deep inhale.

3. Exhale out.

4. Again inhale, bring your attention to all the feelings in your body in a non-judgmental way.

5. Exhale out, focusing on all the feelings in your body in a non-judgmental way.

6. Repeat those steps above. As you progress, work on bringing your breathing to its natural state.

7. Then, open your eyes and carry that feeling with you for the rest of your day.

America is a culture that loves to win. If Americans want to continue to win, they better figure out a way to incorporate meditation into their schedule. Because as the statistics show, stress is cleaning house. To continue winning we have to incorporate meditation into our culture. Meditation is the new pushup.

For more by Robert Piper, click here.

For more on meditation, click here.

via Robert Piper: Meditation: America’s New Pushup.

Simple meditation techniques provide powerful benefits – Life and Arts – The Buffalo News

Centuries-old practice finds new popularity as a refuge from the stress of the everyday

BY: |

Peek into a room of meditating people, and you will be struck by their stillness. They sit, eyelids lowered, with their backs straight and hands at rest, breathing slowly and evenly.

Inside their brains, they are still and quiet, too, concentrating on their breaths, a phrase or an image.

Oddly, this quiet activity, done consistently, has a powerful positive effect on people, physically, mentally and emotionally. In addition to relieving anxiety and stress, meditation has been found to reduce pain, lower heart rates, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and reduce the risk of stroke or heart attack.

As the pace of life quickens, more people are seeking relief in the centuries-old practice of meditation. Once an esoteric, religion-based practice, secular meditation is offered in many settings. It is often included in corporate wellness programs, and is being explored by the U.S. Marine Corps as a way to keep Marines healthy and improve their resiliency.

Plenty of people in this area are catching on to the benefits of meditation. Meditator Marguerite Battaglia says that Western New York boasts “a remarkable number” of meditation groups. (See sidebar.)

The benefits, which have been documented in scientific studies, are linked to physical changes in the brain, says Stephan Bodian, a psychotherapist and author of “Meditation for Dummies” (Wiley, $24.99). “From the research on meditation that I cite in the book, the indication is that meditation actually changes the brain, literally growing and shrinking gray matter,” says Bodian in a phone conversation from his Tucson home. “Meditation enhances parts of the brain that are related to concentration, memory and positive feelings of well-being, and tends to de-emphasize and shrink the parts of the brain related to fear, anxiety and negative emotions.”

The impact is gradual, Bodian says, but begins soon after people start to meditate regularly. “People who meditate may not even notice the changes at first,” he says. “But the people around them notice it. They say, ‘You are not as reactive as you used to be, you are so much mellower!’”

The physical improvements appear to be caused by a decrease in stress and anxiety, which have been proven to have damaging effects on the body.

Without meditation, “Your thinking mind goes running wild,” says Battaglia, of Buffalo, who has meditated for eight years with the Peaceful Heart Mindfulness Community, among other groups. “They call it a monkey mind; you are thinking too much and making up stories that include worries about the future or regrets about the past.”

Marine Corps officials are testing an eight-week course in “Mindfulness-Based Mind Fitness Training,” which may help Marines regain their equilibrium after stressful events. The program was developed by former U.S. Army Capt. Elizabeth Stanley, a professor at Georgetown University, who found that meditation and yoga relieved her Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

What is meditation?

It looks so simple, and yet the practice of meditation is complex enough to keep people mentally occupied for years, even decades. Bodian has meditated since the mid-1970s; Dennis Hohman of Orchard Park, who belongs to the Awakening Community, a group of mostly experienced meditators, has meditated for some 30 years.

Anyone can meditate, nearly anywhere. Many experts suggest that beginners start by just sitting comfortably, closing their eyes and concentrating on their breathing.

“It sounds so simple, but it is so hard,” says Battaglia. “Set a timer for five minutes, and count one on your in breath and two on your out breath, until you get to 10, and then go back to one again, and I almost guarantee that by the time you get to six, you will forget that you’re on six, and you’ll have to go back, or you’re on 11 or 12 and you’ll have to go back to 10.”

Beginners are astonished to find how difficult it is to calm their minds and focus on their breath for just 10 breaths at a time.

As people concentrate on their breaths, they become present in their bodies, clearing their minds of fear, regret and anxiety.

With clarity comes the ability to shed burdens. “If you meditate, it becomes clear what you need and don’t need in your life,” says Battaglia. “You’ll realize you don’t need certain kinds of people, certain kinds of things. Through meditation you become less attached to things, and attachment and desire are what get us all tangled up.”

Hohman says those who meditate regularly “won’t notice the effects on a daily basis, but it’s a cumulative effect. Things that used to upset you or rattle you – social situations, employers, difficulties in life – don’t seem to throw you the way they once did, and you can handle the daily vicissitudes of relationships with aplomb, much more calmly and better relaxed.”

Hohman says he can look back and see how he has changed. “There’s been an enormous reduction of generalized fear and anxiety in my life,” he says.

Setting the mind on idle

In his foreword to Bodian’s book, Dr. Dean Ornish writes that while “learning to meditate was one of the smartest decisions I ever made,” he is aware of the objections people who don’t meditate have about the practice. People who don’t meditate fear that it might be boring, esoteric or difficult, while Ornish counters that meditation is interesting, familiar, natural and powerful.

But how is doing nothing and thinking of nothing not boring?

“When you are sitting there, you are so busy – you can’t believe how busy you are,” says Battaglia.

People are used to being stimulated and preoccupied; the purpose of meditation is to hit the “pause” button, Bodian says: “Minds tend to find that boring initially … but after a while you start experiencing the pleasures of meditation, the pleasures of the moment for what it is right now.”

The challenge of meditation – of keeping your mind clear of intrusive thoughts – “becomes interesting,” Bodian says. “How attentive can I be? How present can I be? … You are learning a new skill, and that’s always interesting. Then eventually you start enjoying it.”

Power of the group

Western New York has quite a few meditation groups, which Hohman has seen burgeon from just one or two groups when he started meditating in the 1980s.

“What seemed to be a real catalyst was the visit of the Dalai Lama to the University at Buffalo in 2006,” Hohman says. “A number of people in meditation groups got together and worked with UB as part of community outreach. We found all kinds of people who had been in small groups or just meditating by themselves, and after that it just seemed as though the groups all grew in size.”

While many meditation groups are rooted in a spiritual tradition or even held in a place of worship, most commonly Buddhist, Bodian writes that every major faith has a tradition of meditation, including Christian prayer and Jewish contemplation.

“What meditation is about simply is being present in the moment,” Bodian says. “It cuts across all religious or spiritual traditions. Suppose you want to be more like Christ, which is one of the goals of the Christian tradition. Being present in the moment can make you more compassionate to the people around you so you can be more responsive and give more.”

Nondenominational meditation is offered in many different venues. “Nowadays it’s very common to be able to learn meditation through mindfulness groups, or in community education classes at colleges,” says Bodian. Some day spas and yoga studios, where a few minutes of mindfulness practice are often offered at the end of each yoga class, also offer meditation opportunities. “There are now corporations that include meditation in their corporate wellness programs,” says Bodian.

The key to reaping the benefits of meditation is not to do it perfectly but to do it often, says Bodian. “If you wanted to run a marathon, and you ran a mile and then didn’t run for three or four days, and then ran a mile again, you’d never get anywhere,” he says. “You run gradually and frequently and work your way up, just like meditation. If you do this on a regular basis, you are gradually able to remain aware for longer and longer periods of time. Practice is the key, like any skill.”

Simple meditation techniques provide powerful benefits – Life & Arts – The Buffalo News.

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.

 

How I Meditate | Mindful Parenting

Let me be clear about this. I am not the “meditating type,” if such a type actually exists. I don’t wear long flowery skirts, I’m not into mystical rituals, and chanting has always creeped me out. To be perfectly honest, I always thought that meditation was for weirdos who would be better served by a little self-discipline and a well-crafted to-do list.

via How I Meditate | Mindful Parenting.

Until I had kids, and realized that perhaps I had become one of those weirdos, and that self-discipline and to-do lists weren’t the answer. I put on my research brain, determined to find a way to get myself back on track. Virtually every article I read about dealing with the challenges of parenting and balancing multiple roles came back to one idea: mindfulness practice, both formal and informal. (Formal practice includes meditation and yoga. Informal practice refers to those random moments during the day when you decide to purposefully pay attention—I’ll talk more about that later.) Once I started looking into it, I realized that there’s nothing woo-woo about all of it. It’s just about paying attention to whatever is happening, and accepting it without judgment. I found an entire body of research outlining the benefits of mindfulness meditation, including improved memory and concentration, stress reduction, and decreased emotional reactivity. It sounded like exactly what I was looking for.

I found an 8-week mindfulness meditation course, which taught me the basics of meditation, including different types (such as the body scan and focused breathing) and how to sit properly. Now, most days of the week, I sit for 20 minutes or so and just breathe. I don’t have a specific meditation space (we have a small house) or a fancy set-up, just a meditation cushion to help with my posture and a yoga mat that I fold over and sit on to cushion my knees. From there, I close my eyes and simply pay attention to my inhalations and exhalations. I don’t change my breathing, I am just aware of it. Every time I notice my mind wandering (which happens approximately every 8 seconds, or perhaps every 6), I bring my attention back to my breathing. And then I do it again, and again, until the timer on my iPhone goes off.

 

Am I a calmer, better person since I’ve started meditating? Some days I start to think so, but most days, well, I’m not so sure. Meditating is a bit like training for a sport—the more time you spend on the practice field, the better you’ll be able to perform during the big game, which in my case happens when I’m exhausted, my daughters are nagging me, and I can’t find a single piece of chocolate in the house. I’m definitely still a newbie. I do know that my brain is no unlike my young daughters: easily distracted, moody, and in need of a serious time out every once in awhile. So, I’ll keep sitting and breathing. I don’t expect to turn into the Dalai Mama any time soon, but hopefully I’ll feel a little more grounded than I might have otherwise.

If you’re interested in meditating, here are some resources to get you started:

Here is a list of MBSR (mindfulness-based stress reduction, the program started by Jon Kabat-Zinn) trainers throughout the country.

– There are many books on getting started with mindfulness practice, but I particularly like Sharon Salzberg’s Real Happiness, The Power of Meditation: A 28-Day Program, as well as Dr. Ronald Siegel’s The Mindfulness Solution: Everyday Practices for Everyday Problems. Both books come with audio recordings of guided meditations.

– Wildmind.org has a great section on good postures for meditation.

– This is the meditation cushion I use. It is filled with buckwheat hulls, and feels a lot like a bean bag. However, there are other ones that feel more like pillows. Ideally, you should find a store where you could try them out and see what is most comfortable for you.

– I shelled out $1.99 for the Insight Timer app on my iPhone, because I like the (fake) sound of the Tibetan Singing Bowl for starting and ending my meditation. There’s also a version for Android phones. In the event that you are looking for a real singing bowl (which I don’t own), you should probably find a store and check them out for yourself. They come in many different tones, and you should find one that really resonates with you.

So, what do you all think? What do you use for meditation? What has worked for you? I’d love to hear your questions and thoughts.

 

Movement and Mindfulness 3 hour Intensive this Thursday!

Introducing a new 3 hour Meditation Intensive called Movement and Mindfulness in West Seattle this July! Also coming to the UW in the Fall. Is this email not displaying correctly?
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It’s the first and biggest challenge in learning to meditate. To make it easier for you, I can also come to your home or business.

Either through one of my regular courses or a personalized session, I am honored to help you to develop your practice.

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How I teach meditation:

I have structured my meditation courses to be a very basic introduction to the physiology and practical experience of meditation. I find that when beginning meditation, studying history and theory tends to over stimulate the mind. There is time during breaks or after class for any questions that arise.

Here’s a few links to start with:

Please reply to this email if you have any problems with the website or suggestions or just to let me know what you think!

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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.