Meditation 101

meditation2

Walking, Laying, Sitting, Hiking, Writing

Meditating doesn’t always have to be about NOT THINKING. It is actually about being mindful, and BREATHING.

People can be mindful by simply slowing down, taking a moment, and perhaps even repeating a self-mantra or affirmation.

af·fir·ma·tion (noun) A word or string of words that you declare positively and repeat as a mantra when you need a little extra spark.  The important part though is that you hold it to be TRUE. That when you say them out loud to yourself, you believe in them, they resonate with you, and make you feel happier, lighter, and more glorious; more relaxed; and more vibrant. Affirmations can be created or even edited and change them to suit your own views. Because after all,

to affirm something to yourself is the sincerest form of Self-Love.

Now, of course during meditation, things may pop in your head. Don’t get frustrated, or angry. Because everyone sometimes just wants to cover their ears and scream, but the key with this is the awareness of these emotions and asking why you truly feel them that allows these boggy energies to lift and float away. Don’t get me wrong though, we need these feelings too. They are not “good” nor “bad” feelings. They are all a beautiful and necessary rainbow that makes us living, breathing, and feeling people. So, if you need to scream, scream. If you need to cry, sweet ones, cry. But remember there is a light in you that is able to shine through any ordeal with poise, respect, and self-love.

So with that being said, anyone can meditate. You needn’t be a monk, nor particularly spiritual at all. Meditating has several health benefits, which help to affect the mind, body and soul holistically.

Typically, a guided meditation is done inside doors, unless you would like a walking meditation at a park or a hiking meditation at a local preserve. But, like I have said so many times before, you can meditate anywhere with enough mindfulness. Whether it is on the bus, or at the airport. On a lunch break, or walking to your next class, all it takes is a little imagination, and breath.

To prove it to you, here is a guided meditation I wrote in July 2012. Feel free to comment in the box below and tell me what you think. Namaste, and safe journeys…

Also, here are a couple of recorded meditations with the Albany Peace Project; that I have done in recent years. Feel free to use any of them as you wish.

JOURNEY TO YOUR SACRED SPACE

Affirmation: “The world speaks with many tongues. I choose to speak with the language of Light.”

PREPARE with some supplies:

  1. Tell any roommate(s) or family members that you will need to be left alone (for about 30 min.- 1 hr.)
  2. Ask politely for their respect and for their silence. (Perhaps they could go out for a walk or something.)
  3. Grab a favourite soothing scent (i.e. incense, essential oil, or perfume. I suggest a nice Lavender blend.)
  4. A candle, the size doesn’t matter (a cute and simple tea-light will do just fine)
  5. Make ice and chill some water in the fridge (You will need this after the meditation)
  6. Fresh vegetables and/or fruit to pair with the chilled water (This is to ground & centre you)
  7. Think temperature. Is it hot or cold? (use air conditioning/fans or blankets as needed)
  8. Make a meditation playlist or grab a CD of soothing music. (Loreena McKennit, Putumayo Present, Dave Stringer & Spring Groove are GREAT!)
  9. And finally, turn off any alarms or cellphones and retreat into your own inner silence…

Sit or lay down on your back however you feel comfortable. Light the candle and incense, and breathe in your perfume or essential oil. Turn on the music, and let’s get ready to rock and roll! Literally!

Let’s begin in a Yogi position and cross our legs. Adjust yourself as necessary. Be sure to reposition your bottom and your sits bones so you don’t feel uncomfortable and also so you can properly align with your backbone. Close your eyes…and BREATHE. Breathe in…breathe out…breathe in… breathe out. Create a repetition. Do one in, one out. Or, one in, hold, and breathe out. Try counting to a certain degree. Breathe in, one-two-three-four. Hold, one-two-three-four. Breathe out, one-two-three-four.

If thoughts permeate your brain, acknowledge those worries, and then let them drift away. This is our time. Your time. You are allowed to take this time for yourself. You deserve it. You can worry later, but right now, this is sacred. This is your sacred time for You.

Mmm, doesn’t that feel nice? Pay attention to your breath. Breathe deeply down into your belly, fill those lungs, relish in the fact that YOU ARE ALIVE. You are here. YOU. ARE. BREATHING.

Feel any tensions release. Feel all the stress leave your body as you exhale. With every inhale, feel the life-force, the Mana energy that is all around us, building up in you, feeding you, sustaining you. Giving you the courage. The strength. The power. After a while you may begin to feel that you are reaching a max of energy, you may be tingling, you may feel light and clean and free. Once you find this place, know you are safe. YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL. You are filled with light, warm radiating light. Your face, your arms, your hands, your feet. Your eyes, your toes, your lips, your ears. All shine with the grace of pure true unconditional love for yourself. Down, down you go through the earth. Down, down you travel with each breathe. Allow yourself to go deeper, and deeper still into your being. Allow yourself to accept yourself as you are now, able to make choices from a place of personal power, a place of wisdom, a place where all of life is born and reborn. Now, where are you right now? Let’s go on an adventure. To a place within you where you can always return. It is a place of your own design. Do you find yourself in a field? Near a river? A pond, a pool? Look at your surroundings, this is your true home, this is your sacred place.  Take a few minutes to journey around, explore, relax, sit, and meditate even farther. Ever deeper. You are now in Trance time. The world of noise and pollution has been left behind.  Yours is a land of plenty. Of fresh greens, of beauty. Look to the horizon. What do you see? Remember it. Learn from it. What does it say to you? Take some time to listen…and LEARN from this new world.

After a while, and take your time doing so, go for a walk. Find me there with you. Where am I? Am I in a red tent on a hill? Near a river bank pondering the fish? Am I, I? What face or mask am I wearing? What gender am I? When you find me. Allow me to take your hand. My hand feels warm yet refreshingly cold at the same time. My form at first may be transparent, but with time I will become more clear. As I take your hand I start to lead you to a bridge. This bridge connects are two lands together. And you may find that the bridge changes with every visit you may make in the future. For all things in life are malleable, changeable and it is simply the way things are meant to be. In my  land, there are trees. Tall Ancient Pines. Hemlock, Ferns, and Moss. Mushrooms and Rivers laden with Willow. Sunflowers, and Roses, and Queen Anne’s Lace. For this is my Sanctuary. We walk past Brothers Deer, Otter, and Butterfly. Sisters Fox, Bear, and Heron. Grandmother’s Lilac, Sage, and Cedar. Grandfather’s Rosemary, Lavender, and Lemongrass . Children’s laughter and song. Hares jumping and eating clover. Ancestor stone circles, and Holy Ones playing cards. After seeing all of this, I lead you to a grotto. Apple Trees in various stages of maturity. Some full of floral blossoms, some with ripe delicious apples, and some even barren. Bees buzz nearby. Their melody seems to dance on the winds. Mmm, lap up the sound with your mind’s tongue. How does it taste? Does it have a colour? It has a music of its own, separate from the Bees. This nectar is alive. It is electric and it fills you with Magick as we walk and venture further towards the hive. Do not worry, for this is a land where all beings live cooperatively. Where both man and beast can converse and aide each other. The Bees are our teachers for today. When we reach the hive, they sense we are there, and actually they knew we were coming. I ask them if they can offer you some wisdom, and they agree joyfully  bringing drops of honey and let them slide onto my tongue. But I must leave you now and will wait back at the grotto under the Apple Blossoms. Do not fear I will only be a short distance away. Sometimes knowledge is meant for only one person and one person only. Sit with them for a while and meditate. Ask them a question, ask from deep within your heart. When you are ready, speak to them in your own way for they speak the language of Light. They hum around you and say “TASTE…LEARN…LISTEN…” Stick out your tongue and take in their knowledge. When you are finished give them thanks and return to me. Take as long as you need. But do not ask too many questions, for bees are very busy, and have much to accomplish in a day.

Once you have finished with the bees and have thanked them, you find me hanging with my legs from an Apple branch smiling cheerfully. I jump down and take your hand again, and with the other part the branches and you see the bridge we crossed over. I take you back and now it is time for you to return. Return to your own land and to take what you learned with you.  What did you learn?  Will you listen to the wisdom of the bees? Go back to your sacred place and venture as long as you wish. Ponder the Bee’s song. And know you can always return to my land again for any sort of guidance.

Eventually sit down again and begin to breathe. Inhale. Exhale. Up and up you go, back into regular reality. Fill yourself with Mana. Let it carry you up through yourself. Up through it all. Whisper your goodbyes, and then open your eyes.

Remember what you learned from this journey. Remember where you were. Remember your sacred place. What will you bring back with you? How can you incorporate the wisdom you learned while there in this reality? Do something every day that brings you closer to the world you wish to live in.

I urge you to journal after any meditation because sometimes symbols and messages don’t always get spoken. Sometimes they happen out of the corner of your eye. The Deep Self within us speaks in a different language unto itself. And sometimes takes a while to translate. So write every detail down. You may be surprised to find out the answers later.

Namaste.

Spiritual benefits of meditation

For millennia, meditation has been an exclusively spiritual practice for serious seekers. By quieting the mind and deeply relaxing the body, the meditator experiences deep states of inner peace, and ultimately, higher states of awareness. There are many subtle benefits of practicing meditation—greater intuition, compassion, awareness, focus, among others—but they are ancillary. Ultimately, meditation is the practice of mystics seeking union with [the divine.]

Physical and health benefits of meditation

As meditation has become more well-known in the West, scientists have begun to quantify its physical benefits in hundreds of studies.

Significant benefits have been found for many health conditions, including heart disease, cholesterol, high blood pressure, insomnia, chronic pain, cancer, and immunity. Because meditation is a low-cost intervention with no side-effects, it shows promise for relief of a wide range of societal and health problems.

  • In a study of health insurance statistics, meditators had 87% fewer hospitalizations for heart disease, 55% fewer for benign and malignant tumors, and 30% fewer for infectious diseases. The meditators had more than 50% fewer doctor visits than did non-meditators.(1)
  • Meditation lowers blood pressure to levels comparable to prescription drugs for those who are normal to moderately hypertensive.(2)
  • Meditation increases circulation in beginning meditators by 30%, and in experienced meditators by as much as 65%.(3)
  • Meditation has endorsed by the NIH as effective for the relief of chronic pain. Chronic pain sufferers experience a reduction in symptoms of 50% or more.(4)
  • 75% of long-term insomniacs who have been trained in relaxation, meditation, and simple lifestyle changes can fall asleep within 20 minutes of going to bed.(5)
  • Meditation reduces blood sugar levels in diabetics.(6)
  • A group of inner-city residents suffering from chronic pain, anxiety, depression, diabetes and hypertension were trained in meditation. They experienced a 50% reduction in overall psychiatric symptoms, a 70% decrease in anxiety, and a 44% reduction in medical symptoms.(7)

Mental and productivity benefits of meditation

Research on meditation has shown significant improvements in mental health, memory, concentration, and productivity.

  • Brain scans show that meditation shifts activity in the prefrontal cortex (behind the forehead) from the right hemisphere to the left. People who have a negative disposition tend to be right-prefrontal oriented; left-prefrontals have more enthusiasms, more interests, relax more, and tend to be happier.(8)
  • Researchers tested novice meditators on a button-pressing task requiring speed and concentration. Performance was greater at 40 minutes of meditation than after a 40-minute nap.(9)
  • Meditation helps chronically depressed patients, reducing their relapse rate by half.(10)
  • Meditators notice more, but react more calmly than non-meditators to emotionally arousing stimuli.(11)
  • Those with smoking, alcohol, and eating addictions who have been trained in meditation break their addictions with significantly lower relapse rates than those receiving standard therapies.(12)
  • Middle school children who practice meditation show improved work habits, attendance, and GPA.(13)
  • Brain scans of meditators show increased thickness in regions of the cortex associated with higher functions like memory and decision making.(14)
  • Meditation appears to slow aging. Those meditating five years or more were 12 years younger than their chronological age.(15)

References:
1 D. Orme-Johnson, Pschosomatic Medicine 49 (1987): 493-507.
2 Michael Murphy and Steven Donovan, The Physical and Psychological Effects of Meditation (Institute of Noetic Sciences, 1997).
3 Ibid.
4 J. Kabat-Zinn, L. Lipworth, R. Burney, and W. Sellers, “Four year follow-up of a meditation-based program for the self-regulation of chronic pain,” Clinical Journal of Pain 2(1986): 159-173.
5 Gregg Jacobs, Harvard Medical School, Say Goodnight To Insomnia, (Owl Books, 1999).
6 H. Cerpa, “The effects of clinically standardised meditation on type 2 diabetics,” Dissertation Abstracts International 499 (1989): 3432.
7 B. Roth, T. Creaser, “Meditation-based stress reduction: experience with a bilingual inner-city program,” Nurse Practitioner 22(3) (1997): 150-2, 154, 157.
8 R. Davidson, J. Kabat-Zinn, et al, “Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation,” Psychosomatic Medicine 65 (2003): 564-570.
9 Reported in The Boston Globe, November 23, 2005
10 J.D. Teasdale, Z.V. Segal, J.M.G. Williams , V. Ridgeway, M. Lau, & J. Soulsby, “Reducing risk of recurrence of major depression using mindfulness-based cognitive therapy,” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 68 (2000):  615-23.
11 Michael Murphy and Steven Donovan, The Physical and Psychological Effects of Meditation (Institute of Noetic Sciences, 1997).
12 C.N. Alexander, P. Robinson, M. Rainforth, “Treatment and prevention of drug addiction,” Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly 11 (1994): 11-84.
12 J. Kristeller and B. Hallett, “An exploratory study of a meditation-based intervention for binge eating disorder,” Journal of Health Psychology Vol 4, (1999): 357-363.
12 P.A. Royer-Bounouar,“A new direction for smoking cessation programs,”Dissertation Abstracts International 50, 8-B (1989): 3428.
12 M. Shafii, R. Lavely, and R. Jaffe,“Meditation and marijuana,” American Journal of Psychiatry 131 (1974): 60-63.
13 H. Benson, M. Wilcher, et al,  (2000). “Academic performance among middle school students after exposure to a relaxation response curriculum,” Journal of Research and Development in Education 33 (3) (2000): 156-165.
14 Massachusetts General Hospital, reported by Carey Goldberg, The Boston Globe (November 23, 2005)
15 R.K. Wallace, M.C. Dillbeck, E. Jacobe, B. Harrington, International Journal of Neuroscience 16 (1982): 53-58.

Excerpted from Freedom from Stress, David and Karen Gamow, Glenbridge Publishing (2006). http://www.anandapaloalto.org

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