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Meditation

Meditation

This month I am discussing meditation because there are many questions
about it, as well as some confusion. I’ve heard it said that if you can worry
you can meditate because you are able to keep your mind on one thing.
The goal of meditation is to quiet your mind by staying focused on one
thought, word (mantra), object, your breath, or a sensation in your body.

Benefits: Meditation leads to the “relaxation response” which includes
reduced heart rate and blood pressure, reduced muscle tension
increased immunity to disease, more physical energy, and
heightened mental focus and awareness.
There are studies that suggest it may also be helpful in treating
heart disease, strokes, anxiety disorders, depression, and chronic
pain syndromes such as arthritis and headaches.

Guidelines:  Try to do it every day, for a set amount of time in a quiet, semidark place.
Sit in a comfortable position with your hands on your lap.
You can also do this lying down on your back if you will not fall
asleep.  Close your eyes and focus your attention on a word,
image,  idea, or your breath.  For beginners, it might be enough
just to let yourself be aware of the thoughts that flow through your
mind without trying to control them.  Aim for 10-30 minutes for
this exercise.
Some people find it helps to discharge some energy before sitting
down to meditate. An hour of yoga before meditation is what helps
me. You can also do some stretching, jogging or any activity that
will help you to then settle into meditation.

Attitude:  It is helpful to maintain a nonjudgmental attitude while meditating.
It is natural for your mind to wander. Redirect it back gently.
This can be viewed as an exercise in accepting whatever comes up
without criticism of yourself.

Breathing:  Even if you are not focused on your breath, try to breath deeply,
slowly, and rhythmically if possible.  Inhale through your nose,
feel your diaphragm and abdomin rise, and exhale through your
nose or mouth.

Many spiritual traditions use meditation  as a significant part of the spiritual
practice. Interestingly, modern brain research  done on the brains of monks
while they are in a meditative state shows activation of the prefrontal cortex,
the same part of the brain that facilitates compassionate and altruistic
responses. Compassion towards onesself and all of humankind is one of the
major goals of spiritual traditions such as Buddhism.

Whether your goal is spiritual or more related to mind/body issues, meditation
is a practice worth trying.

Flying Fears

Fears and phobias about airplane flying are quite commom. Some people are
afraid of getting a panic attack while in the air and feeling trapped and
embarrassed in that situation. Others are afraid they will be killed in a crash.
The chance that one will be killed in an airplane crash is about one in 11
million (as compared to one in 5,000 for automobiles). However, should you be
on a plane that is in trouble, the middle seating area near the wing is the
strongest and most structurally stable part of most aircrafts, according to
Todd Curtis, Ph.D. It’s also the part of the plane where you will feel the least
amount of turbulence. For more information see www.airsafe.com.

Recommended Reading

This month I am recommending Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking,
by Malcolm Gladwell. This book is about the decisions and choices we make in
the blink of an eye. It’s about instinct and intuition and how we process
incoming information without even realizing we are doing it. Gladwell explains
how this effects diverse areas of life such as marital relationships, sports,
business and advertising, and police decisions. I found it quite interesting and
hope you will also.

Parting Words

From Confucious: “Cultivate the root. The leaves and branches will take care of
themselves”