“I have already noticed an improvement in my physical conditon!”
That is what one of the participants of the September meditation group wrote a week later. I was delighted. The feedback also prompted me to do an internet search on the effects of meditation of physical well being. Now there are thousands of academic research articles that attest to the multiple benefits of meditation – including the physical benefits.
I recently met Dr Shirley Telles , one of the foremost researchers on breath awareness and control and its relationship to physical emotional mental and spiritual well being. We were both faculty members at the Omega Institute’s Breath Immersion: from Science to Samadhi 5 day symposium. Also on faculty was Dr Patricia Gerbard and Dr Richard Brown . Their research on ‘coherent breathing’ and heart rate variability – a measurement of physical health and resilience, has shown the multiple benefits of conscious breathing.
It has been thirty years now since I have been consciously meditating and 25 years since I began teaching others about meditation and running workshops where we could practice. I have seen the change in those I have worked with. Now scientific researchers are providing the evidence
Meditation techniques are always extremely simple. The challenge is to keep practising so we can experience the benefits
1. Lie down somewhere you will not be disturbed. A trick I use is to give myself a certain time on my smart phone time. That way I am not worrying about the time and can give myself to the meditation exercise.
2. Close your eyes and begin to focus on your breathing.
3. Gradually make your breath deeper and fuller. Slow full breaths that are comfortable
4. Once you have set up a gentle rhythm with your breath begin to be aware of your body.
Do this systematically, imagining that the life for in the breath is following your awareness and going to different parts of your body in turn, or
5. If you have a particular physical discomfort, just put your total awareness and the breath there
6. Sense that part of your body, and most probably you will notice a positive change
1. Dr Shirley Telles http://www.patanjaliresearchfoundation.com
2. The Healing Power of the Breath: Simple Techniques to Reduce Stress and Anxiety, Enhance Concentration, and Balance Your Emotions Paperback – June 12, 2012 by Richard P. Brown, Patricia L. Gerbarg
In this months meditation workshop a number of the participant really wanted a definitive answer to the question – what is meditation.
Today, coincidentally, I was re-reading Breath of Life, by Abbot George Burke aka Swami Nirimalanda Giri. This book is an extensive study on the practice of breath meditation according to the Hindu, Buddhist,Taoist, Jewish and Christian traditions He began like this:
“Meditation is the process of re-centering our awareness in the principle of pure consciousness which is our essential being. We have lost awareness of our true Self through awareness of external objects, and become habituated–even addicted–to objective consciousness.
Rather than disperse our consciousness through objects that draw us outward, away from the center of our being, we can take an object that will have the opposite effect, present it to the mind, and reverse our consciousness. That object is the breath, which is the meeting place of body, mind, and spirit.
The breath and the body are interconnected, as is seen from the fact that the breath is calm when the body is calm, and agitated or labored when the body is agitated or labored. The heavy exhalation made when feeling exhausted and the enthusiastic inhalation made when feeling energized or exhilarated establish the same fact.
The breath and the emotions are interconnected, as is seen from the fact that the breath is calm when the emotions are calm, and agitated and labored when the emotions are agitated or out of control. Our drawing of a quick breath when we are surprised, shocked, or fearful, and the forceful exhalation done when angry or annoyed demonstrate this.
The breath and the mind are interconnected, as is seen from the fact that the breath is calm when the mind is calm, and agitated, irregular, and labored when the mind is agitated or disturbed in any way. Our holding of the breath when attempting intense concentration also shows this.
Breath, which exists on all planes of manifestation, is the connecting link between matter and energy on the one hand and consciousness and mind on the other. By sitting with closed eyes and letting the mind become easefully absorbed in observing and experiencing the movements of the breath we enter into the consciousness from which it arises–the eternal Witness Consciousness.
We start with awareness of the ordinary physical breath, but that awareness, when cultivated correctly, leads us into higher awareness which enables us to perceive the subtle movement behind the breath.
Ultimately, we come into contact with the Breather of the breath, our own Spirit-Self.
I was listening recently to Sally Kempton, a scholar and spiritual teacher known for the depth of her own practice and the clarity with which she guides others. She was speaking of the Divine feminine – suggesting that the time has come to work for change through love, through ‘fierce compassion’.
In her book Awakening Shakti: The Transformative Power of the Goddesses of Yoga she describes the qualities of the various Hindu goddesses and gives practical ways of working with those energies. Following are notes that I made listening to her recent talk.
The goddess Lalita helps you fall in love with life and at the same time demands that you become free.
There are four practical ways you work towards this goal:
1. Let the creative force enter you through the breath.
One of the ways that Shakti, the Divine Feminine manifests in human body is through the breath
Tune to the breath and let it come in as a gentle caress. Caressing your heart.
Breath and awareness are making love to each other
2. Allow yourself to be seen
Still. Opened eyed. Feel/imagine yourself being seen by the ecstatic creative force of life.
All the things in your environment are seeing you. You are seen. You are part of a pulsation of life.
3. Feel the energy
Feel the energy in your body, in the air, in the earth all around you.
Allow the feeling to build until you know you are that energy. You are that ecstatic creative energy.
Visualise the goddess as strongly as you can. Then merge your body with hers
Sally Kempton will soon be running a 7 week course that you may be interested in
I recently held a wonderful meditation workshop.
Why do I say wonderful? Because the participants all had valuable insights about themselves, meditation and life to take away with them.
I always explain that sometimes the process of meditation is not always easy. Traditionallly meditation is described as a ‘purification practice’ i.e. getting rid of what stands in the way of peace of mind and contentment.
One of the recent workshop participants wrote to me and said:
"After the group meditation I had a head ached and felt a little anxious. So I did your Relaxation meditation just before going to bed. This morning I woke feeling wonderful. I feel there has been a big shift. Hard to explain but feel lighter. Those things I have been telling myself about my worth for quite some time I actually feel today."
This illustrates the point. Seemingly the result of the workshop was a headache. Actually this headache was a sign that something deep inside was working itself up and out.
A meditator should not be discouraged by their seemingly unsuccessful attempts to meditate. It is those very attempts to meditate that are meditation – especially when they are showing the nature of the relationship between body, mind and emotions.
The more you know and understand yourself, the more able you are to effectively deal with what life hands you.
NEXT MEDITATION WORKSHOP - 14 SEPTEMBER 2014 9.30am -12.30pm
I have been meditating now for over 30 years. It is part of me, part of my life.
The video by the David Lynch Foundation share how one particular school of meditation - Transcendental Meditation, has helped people.
There are many many different meditation techniques. Many different schools and teachers. You can find one that suits you and then you will experience the benefits that others speak of.
“I do your meditation nearly daily and it is great. It is so relaxing that I often fall asleep towards the end of track one and wake up towards the end of track 2…..! It helps a lot”
I received those words in a recent email and was delighted with the timeless benefit of the guided meditations that I made in 1991 to help my clients.
Meditation techniques are many and they all require focus, concentration and awareness.
Paradoxically it is when we focus and concentrate our mind that we allow it to rest. There is no longer a flitting from this thought to that, and the creation of stories and emotions that take us outside the present moment.
Breath is our constant companion. It is our life. We can use it to focus ourselves in the present and find a little peace of mind.
Now, for many that is an impossibility – to just be quiet and focus on the breath. If you are one of those people I offer two tips:
The first is to move.
Focus on your walking, dancing, bicycling – whatever you like best. Feel your different muscles engage and your breath give you energy. This might be enough.
Yet if you want to train yourself to sitting meditation then you can sit down the very instant you stop moving. Close your eyes and concentrate on feeling your body. Get to know yourself in a different way and gradually over time you will be able to sit for longer and longer periods of meditation.
The second tip is to use a mantra.
It is a great way of short circuiting mind chatter.
Mantras traditionally are given by a spiritual teacher and there is a certain energy that accompanies them. The mantra that I use is “om namah shivaya” – I acknowledge the divine – in myself, other and all of creation. You may like to use a simple uplifting phrase like ” I am present here and now. This moment is a new beginning”
Meditation is both a process and a state of mind. It is a way of knowing yourself deeply and accepting what is. When