Meditation and adversity

I found a very interesting piece about (Transcendental) Meditation:

When adversity strikes, meditation can be our best friend. Not as an escape, but as a secret weapon to fortify our minds and bodies, to create resilience and perspective. In his new book, The Gift of Adversity, world-renowned researcher, psychiatrist and author Dr. Norman Rosenthal tells us, “If you are unhappy with your life, consider changing it first from within. Meditation is a powerful tool for self-change, which often leads naturally to positive changes in those around you.”
Here are three ways that an ancient meditation practice is helping people overcome adversity in modern life.

1. Mind Over Matter: Reversing the Stress Response
When we are under stress from crisis, disappointment, loss or sudden illness, our bodies react by flooding our nervous systems with stress hormones, making it harder to think clearly, sleep deeply or have the wherewithal to pick up the pieces. As a teacher of the transcendental meditation technique, I meet many of my students for the first time when they are going through a difficult period and are looking for inner strength to overcome adversity.

One might think it would be difficult to sit and meditate while feeling troubled, but the beauty of a natural, effective mediation technique is that it allows the mind to shift, within seconds, to a state of calm and peace. Research has found that deep transcendence is accompanied by reduction of breath rate, slowing of metabolic rate1, decreased cortisol and plasma lactate2 and increased skin resistance are all indicators of deep relaxation.

See more at: http://www.tm.org/blog.

The Beatles may have been on to something after all

Via TM.ORG:

The Beatles’ visit to India in 1968 to study with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi brought the world’s attention to the Transcendental Meditation technique. This recent article in Great Britain’s newspaper, The Telegraph is a look at how the Fab Four were indeed ahead of their time.

Below are excerpts from science correspondent, Richard Gray’s June 11th article in The Telegraph.

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It may have seemed simply a phase in pop history, but it seems the Beatles may have been on to something after all during their fabled journey to India.

Transcendental Meditation became synonymous with hippy culture in the 1960s after The Beatles embraced it following a visit to India where they were taught the technique by the late Maharishi Mahesh Yogi .

Now a growing body of research is suggesting it can have a positive effect on people’s lives.

Recent studies have shown that it can be used to treat high blood pressure and help people overcome psychological problems. The latest research found that US school pupils who performed the meditation technique had higher graduation rates than those who did not. Researchers found that Transcendental Meditation increased the number of students graduating by 15 per cent while among those with the lowest academic grades, a further 25 per cent graduated compared to those not meditating.

Professor Robert Colbert, from the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut, said: “Transcendental Meditation appears to hold tremendous promise for enriching the lives of students.” He added that the meditation technique was a viable method for turning around “poor student academic performance and low graduation rates.”

The Beatles’ time with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, at his teaching centre in the foothills of the Himalayas in 1968, produced some of the most famous images of the Fab Four, dressed in white and draped in flower garlands. It was also one of their most productive periods musically, with Lennon declaring that between them they wrote around 30 new songs during their visit to Rishikesh.

The tracks, which ended up on The Beatles, also known as theWhite Album, and Abbey Road, include Back in the USSR, Blackbird, Revolution and Mean Mr. Mustard.

In an interview conducted in 2009, Paul McCartney and drummer Ringo Starr spoke candidly about how the meditation technique helped them.

Starr said:

“Since then, sometimes a lot, sometimes a little, I have meditated. It is a gift he [the Maharishi] gave me.”

McCartney added:

“It wasn’t all about meditation, it’s just you were focused – but yeah, there were very blissful moments. It is one of the few things anyone has ever given to me that means so much to me. For us, it came at a time when we were looking for something to stabilize us at the end of the crazy sixties.”

McCartney has also in the past called for Transcendental Meditation to be used in schools. He said:

“I believe that in the future meditation could be as commonplace in schools and society as eco-awareness is now. It interests me that an ancient cure may be the solution to a modern problem.”

The new research (on TM), which involved 235 students in their senior year at an urban school on the US east coast, was funded by the David Lynch Foundation.

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To read The Telegraph’s article in its entirety, click here.

Meditation. 5. Choice.

Yoga in the forest

What meditation technique fits you? Are you someone who can sit still and blank your mind the way Zen practitioners do?

Are you looking for answers and therefore seeking a meditation that can get you to them, like a guided meditation or pathworking?

Do you want to ease the mess in your head and find some peace, like is done with Autogenic Training and Transcendental Meditation?

Important questions. But also consider if you want to meditate alone or in a group. If you want to do Zen with 50 others and you’re the only one in town, your practice might become expensive if you have to travel to a large group every time, provided there is one. Expensive or even impossible. That’s why it is important not only to consider what form you want to practice, but also if it’s possible to do it.

meditation-benefits-for-women

 

After all, meditation is a great way to detach from the outside world for a while, but we have to move within that outside world, as that is the realm in which we live our lives.

 

Meditation. 4. Myths and misconceptions

Misconception 1: I’m not flexible enough to meditate.

Yoga pose
Yoga pose

This is probably what most people think of when you say you do yoga. Well, it can be. It can be a lot ‘worse’ ( = difficult ) too, but yoga won’t force you to do anything your body can’t take. Note that this does not mean you should at least try. There are also many forms of meditation that don’t require complicated poses; if you can sit down or lie down, you’re all set.

Misconception 2: you need to be a member of some sect or weird cult to meditate.
Wrong. Anyone can meditate. Meditation is a technique, for some a way of life, but for a normal form of meditation you don’t have to join any group, wear orange robes or shave your head. Again, there are people who feel like that, but it’s never a requirement.

Misconception 3: you can’t be a Christian and meditate.
Wrong. There are plenty of Christians who meditate. What else is prayer than a form of meditation, when you look at it from a logical point of view?

Misconception 4: when I meditate, nothing happens so I’m doing it wrong.
Wrong again.  When you meditate, things happen on many levels, and the levels that need most attention get that. Not always are you aware that something happens, so please don’t stop but persist. At one point, and yes that can take a demotivatingly long time, you will feel something happen.

For more information on meditation misconceptions you can have a look at Susan Piver’s site, or this page on About.com.

Meditation. 3. Benefits.

Enough talk about the how and what of meditation, don’t you agree? Why do people meditate? What’s the goal, what do they want to achieve with it?

meditation01

Short answer: whatever you like.

Long answer: you can meditate to find peace and rest. Meditation can be employed to calm yourself down, to relax and unwind from the day. Depending on the way you meditate you can also taken on stress. Stress is like a fine layer of dust that falls down on your mind, your nerves, your Self. After a while this thin layer becomes thick, sinks in, and becomes a massive clot of misery that is difficult to get rid of. Using the proper forms of meditation you can use it as a chisel to chop away bits of that stress-blob, and slowly free yourself from it. When you’ve removed all the stress you keep meditating to prevent stress from getting to you.

You can also meditate to find answers to questions. Meditation lifts you up from the normal level of thinking and worrying. As you ascend from that level, you get a far better overview and insight of the problem you are facing. Since a problem usually is not solved on the level where it originated, this way to deal with a problem is very good as you can approach it with a different, far clearer and cleaner attitude.

 

Meditation. 2. Ways and techniques.

So, meditation. What ways and techniques are there? Really, that would yield a list far too long to start here, so let’s look at the most common ones and a few you may not know.

Yoga position
Yoga position

Everyone has probably heard of yoga. It comes from India and encompasses a large number of meditation techniques. Some are spiritual, some physical, some mental, but they all pursue a common goal to ‘attach’ or ‘join’. The general idea is to become ‘part of the world’, to connect to it and be healthier because of it. Yoga has been used to enhance health and even combat cancer. (Link to Yoga on Google.)

Prayer is a form of meditation (or contemplation) as well. A person sunk into deep prayer aims to connect to a higher form, releasing his or her spirit from their physical form to seek for help, guidance or relief. (Link to prayer on Google.)

TM or Transcendental Meditation. A technique brought to the Western world by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who learnt the technique from his master Guru Dev. For the Western world he adjusted the technique somewhat. It uses a mantra (a word that is a sound without meaning) which is repeated in silence to stop thoughts and allow the mind to rise up (transcend) the current level of awareness. (Link to TM on Google.)

Zen. Everyone’s heard of it. It originated in China from Buddhist teachings. The most well-known type of zen is ‘Zazen’, the sitting meditation. To regulate the mind, awareness is directed towards counting or watching the breath or put in the energy center below the navel.

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In the next article I’ll go into the reasons why people start to meditate and the benefits one can have from it. This article is a follow-up to my first article on meditation.

Meditation. 1. What is it?

I meditate. Since long. I think I discovered it when I was 13 or 14. It started with a little book by Dr. Gisela Eberlein called “Health through autogenic training” (in Dutch: “Gezond door autogene training“.)

autr

It worked well for me for a while. After that I ventured into yoga and even a short bout of Zen, but that was too foreign for me. Then I discovered TM. Transcendental Meditation. That was an eye opener. Simple, easy, effortless (once you’re through the initial period of the “restless mind”. Other practitioners will recognise this. 🙂 ).

Meditation is a way to calm your Self down or to help you in focussing on a specific thing/issue. Meditation is not fixed on one particular thing. The purposes are many, as are the ways in which to meditate. Some prefer group meditations, some practice solo, some dive into themselves using a mantra and some follow guided meditations or path-workings where they follow the lead of someone’s words to enter a specific realm or mindset. Those words can come from someone reading a text or from any sound-source that is available.

So far this first post on meditation. If you want to keep an eye on this little series, you can follow the meditation category link on my site.