“My blogging life is basically goalless. I like the zen nature of that, and paradoxically, it improves results.” – Seth Goden
“Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.” – zen proverb
This week I want to be able to share the basics of what meditation is, share the benefits, which are many, and give a basic approach to help you get started. I do not want to get into the religious, or spiritual aspects of this, each of us can choose our own way. Just like a lot of other things in life, there is more than one way to get there, so it will require some experimenting to find what will work best for you. However, once you do find what does work best for you, the results/rewards are pretty cool!
So what is meditation? Well, to paraphrase Deepak Chopra, it can be summed up as being awake while sleeping,developing your “witnessing awareness.” What the science shows, from countless brain scans, is that when your body and mind are relaxed enough, that your brain waves shift from an alert rational state of beta brain waves, to the slower frequencies of alpha, or even theta brain waves. To avoid any hokus pokus magic about these states. I want you to beware that your brain moves through these different states all the time. Every night when you go to bed, multiple times throughout the evening, and through the morning. If you have ever experience road hypnosis on I-80 in Ohio, or daydreamed while in a lecture in college, you have experienced such transitions in states. So there is nothing magical about the existence of these states or brain waves, but what is magical, is that we can train ourselves to engage in these different states of consciousness actively, rather than passively. This is in fact the premise of Buddhist meditation in the east, Hypnosis in the west and the more recent development NLP (Neuro-linguistic programming) made famous by Tony Robbins.
Although I won’t say hypnosis and meditation are exactly the same thing, they are similar. Trance’s fall under this, and so does lucid dreaming. Actually for the purpose of this post, that exhilirating moment when you realize you are dreaming is the best way to describe it. A lucid dream is a very cool experience of remaining in the dream, but at the same time, being aware of it, and even controlling it. What meditation allows us to do is train our mind to gain more of this kind of ability in a gaining more insight and control over these different states of consciousness. In this way, it is very similar to training our bodies, or learning any other skill set.
Now the benefits:
The physical benefits include:
- Lowers high blood pressure
- Lowers the levels of blood lactate, reducing anxiety attacks
- Decreases any tension-related pain, such as, tension headaches, ulcers, insomnia, muscle and joint problems
- Increases serotonin production that improves mood and behaviour
- Improves the immune system
- Increases energy levels, but being able to reduce anxiety and nervous energy you will feel much less fatigue.
Some of the mental benefits are:
- Anxiety decreases
- Emotional stability improves
- Creativity increases
- Happiness increases
- Intuition develops
- Gain clarity and peace of mind
- Problems become smaller
- Can even help raise I.Q.
So just from this short list, I hope you can see why, from my perspective , this would be a great thing to include in your weekly, if not daily, practice. Studies have shown that it helps slow aging, offers help for those with Mental ailments/disorders from mild depression to ADHD, and has even been shown to help children with down syndrome or other mild forms of mental disability. It is not a silver bullet, and it is not some kind of miracle solution or magical potion. But when done in collusion with intelligently applied strength training and exercise and a nutrient rich diet. Peak performance is no longer a rarity, or for a select few, but for everybody! In fact being at your best becomes the new normal.
Now here’s the best part. Don’t try! The harder you try, or more effort you place on it, the more difficult of a time you will have at being successful with it. For best results I want you to go the other direction, and don’t try at all! Just relax and allow it to happen. The only thing you really are consciously be involved with will be relaxing your body, and by this I mean just pay attention and feel it. Also in the beginning you will only need to set aside about 5 minutes. That’s it! Over time you can increase the duration, but don’t force any of it. It will come. The most important thing is setting aside the time to do it.
Here is what I suggest to begin:
Sit or lay down so that you are comfortable enough to allow your body to relax.
Close your eyes and you can slow your breathing, but you also don’t have to really slow it down, or hold your breath or anything like. Just pay attention to it and allow it to feel natural and refreshing with every breath.
At this point you can begin relaxing your body. I find the greatest success by beginning at my feet and working my way slowly up to the head. Your brain is still going to feed you that constant stream of thoughts, don’t worry about it, see it for what it is and move on. Almost like your simply watching the news. Become an observer of your thoughts, no judgements, just go with it and allow your body to relax and your head to empty. We ultimately want to have a still mind, or clear mind, but like I said, the harder you try the more thoughts you’ll have. Just relax. After 5 minutes gradually wake your body up and go about your day! The benefits will take care of themselves.
Next week we can explore some of the different styles or approaches to meditation and I would also like to share my experience, because it has been really positive. Otherwise, youtube university has a plethora of information out there on the topic, and there will likely be no shortage of meditation instructors in your area, if you are ever interested in learning more from a direct teacher.