The importance of meditation for stress release and clarity
Meditation not only heals, but it also keeps our energy strong, balanced and flowing easily and effortlessly. I think this is what true success is, making choices that allow ourselves to live at our highest states of being. Energy is in everything and choosing how we use it means that we are living intentionally and mindfully. Constrict the flow with fear, anger and sadness and life and flow get stuck. We concentrate on what is happening, which only gives us more of it, without doing anything to fix it. We stay where we are and feel like we are going nowhere.
So what do we do?
Practice keeping balance everyday and you will strengthen the flow within you and your Emotional IQ, keeping life humming. A great starting point is to really get in touch with your feelings, but the camp is split in this.
Some of us don’t feel our emotions fully enough and usually get into judging our self. Some of us have no problem emoting all over the place and judging everyone else. Most of us were taught by institutions like schools, churches, friends and our family systems that it is not OK to respond with our true feelings, worse yet, look how we feel. This is especially true for the forbidden and very universal feelings of fear.
When we don’t know that we are afraid, how can we live lives of abundance and prosperity?
There are many ways to sidestep these feelings and the behaviors that surround them. We learn this dance early in life. Typically traditional men have been taught to cover fear-based emotions with anger. Men and boys are not given much permission even in these times to feel afraid, not even when we would expect them to be. They were taught to cover these feelings with anger–it is OK to be angry, that is pretty masculine, but not afraid. Actually anger is natural when frustrated by a blocked need. But many men, especially traditional men who come off angry are not reacting to a frustration in their life; they are covering their fear of something.
Women, on the other hand have been taught to cover our anger with sadness. Sadness usually occurs when someone is grieving a loss of something. But understand that not every woman who is sad is experiencing grief or loss. Those who are sad and are not grieving a loss of something may be covering their anger. How many woman have you heard say, I am crying because I am frustrated! Some women have taught themselves to use the more masculine trait of anger to cover fear-based emotions. This of course is still covering one emotion for another.
Fear is a natural phenomenon, following the fight or flight path that all animals, even the human variety employ. Although we humans share seven other primary emotions and they are universal to all human beings everywhere. They are disgust, fear, anger, sadness, surprise, Joy, and acceptance. There are more emotions, called blends, but we are sticking to the basics. The primary emotions can be broken down further into two definitive groups: Fear-Based Emotions and Love-Based Emotions. Fear-based emotions are usually areas that we get stuck.
Most of us feel it is OK to admit being afraid if a plane appears to be crashing, or someone has a gun to our head. We are afraid and it is OK to experience that fear. It is not typical to be angry in either of those cases.
Anger is usually generated out of being blocked by something. We have every right to our frustration when we are blocked from some great need; we are lost at sea and need water or food. In the great sorrows of our lives, no one would question sadness and grief with the loss of a loved one. We understand that completely. But there is understandable puzzlement in others when women cry when frustrated by being blocked from something rather than feeling annoyed or angry. Or men who show angry outbursts at things that seem inconsequential. What is it that they fear losing, self-esteem, ego identity or something else? The communication lines go haywire when either of these situations is created in our business or social settings. So what is the answer? What do we do to uncross these confusing communication lines?
Staying clear with ourselves and others on how we feel and allowing ourselves to look the part is a start. When we let things stay hidden from ourselves and others it does more than go undercover, the feelings sometimes turn physical. When feelings turn physical we might hear someone say that they feel “tied up in knots. There neck, back, stomach hurts or they feel depressed or angry.” Meditation can help with these stress related physical side effects. Start by breathing into the fear, anger, sadness, etc. and allow yourself to get in touch with the part of the body they are lodged in. For example, examine those “pains in the neck.” Ask yourself, “Who in my life is being a pain in the neck these days? How can I fix that? What about a pain in the back? What in my life is weighing me down? Can I change something?”
When all is said and done feel your feelings fully, then let them go! Getting right to acceptance feels good and it is where we live at our highest level of energy. When we live at our highest states of energy, life flows easily and effortlessly and we see things clearly. Meditation can make these occurrences come more naturally and more frequently into our awareness. We have the power to live at this level. See more of the possibilities! Why not you? Why not now? If not now, when?
By Shirley Ryan author of Searching for the Waters of Antiquity: A Follow-Along Meditation Process
Sometimes the best things in life are free… Researchers studying meditation show that stress is a vicious cycle: Unchecked stress turns into anxiety; anxiety turns into depression, which over time turns into a hormone that plays havoc with the internal organs of the body, producing a variety of illnesses and disorders.
Meditation can turn that around, reducing anxiety, depression, and the hormones that damage our body. Both adults and children are using meditation to control feelings and behavior. When you look at how our children interpret the body’s responses, these feelings are externalized as both bodily dysfunction and behavior issues. We are seeing that all of these complaints are endemic in our country and in the world.
Viewed from a hormonal level, meditation can counteract the fight-or-flight response that floods the body with a stress hormone which also shuts down the parasympathetic system. This hormone normally restores order after the fight-or-flight response alert is over. Overtime when it doesn’t restore the system, the hormone reacts with a vengeance on it. Taking a closer look on a molecular level, meditation slows metabolism in red blood cells and suppresses the production of proteins associated with the kind of heightened immune response often seen in stressed-out subjects. In one study, meditating a mere 15 minutes twice daily reduced doctor visit over a six-month period saving this health-care system $200 a patient.
Now let’s be honest, maybe we are not so concerned with saving the health care system a lot of money. But aren’t we concerned with how we feel on a daily basis and wouldn’t we want our health care costs lower? I think most of us would agree with these outcomes right? So if 15 minutes twice a day can do that for us, would it be worth your time? I would think so, and if proper breathing and some time can do that, it might be well worth the short commitment. See, sometimes the best things in life are free!
The yogic mantra “so hum” is not only a reflection of the sound of the breath, but also carries a contemplative meaning: “I am that” (so = ”I am” and hum = “that”). Here, “that” refers to all of creation, the one breathing us all. This contemplation meditation is an opportunity to focus “thinking mind” on the mystery of being and to reflect upon the interdependent nature of all phenomenon revealed by the sages and confirmed by contemporary physics.
Find a comfortable posture for meditation (seated on a cushion or blanket), in a chair, or against a wall). Place your palms facing up in jnana mudra (forefinger and thumb touching) with your palms facing up to open your awareness or facing down to calm the mind. Scan your body and relax any tension. Let your spine rise from the ground of the pelvis. Draw your chin slightly down and let the back of your neck lengthen.
Bring your attention to the tidal rhythm of your breath, feeling the rise and fall of your inhalation and exhalation. As your focus settles on your breath, begin to employ the simple mantra “so hum”. As you inhale, silently say “so” to yourself and as you exhale, say “hum”. As you inhale with the mantra “so,” say to yourself “I am,” connecting to your essential self. Contemplate the source of your breath: Where is your breath coming from? Through visualization, contemplate the 5 billion human beings and countless creatures on Earth being fed by the same tidal rhythm of the breath.
As you exhale with “hum,” inwardly say “that” or “all that is.” Feel how your exhalation releases you into the expanse around you. Visualize your exhalation leaving your body through your nostrils and then merging back into the atmosphere, back into infinity, back into “all that is.” Stay with this contemplation until you naturally begin to settle into a state of unified consciousness (which may only be for a few brief, refreshing moments at a time). If a thought (vritti) arises, come back to the simple mantra, “so hum.”
In the beginning, it may be helpful to set an external timer for 10, 20, or 30 minutes so you are not distracted. When you are finished, bring your hands together in anjali mudra (prayer position) and close with a moment of gratitude, reflection, or prayer to soak up the energy of your meditation into your being and life. By Shiva Rea
Heal the Planet
Breathing and Awareness
Take a quiet moment, perhaps early in the morning or before bed, to practice your heart breath. As you breathe, become aware of that connection that connects and sustains all living things. This is not a time to wring your hands over the world’s many troubles; rather, it’s a time to focus on the power you have to heal, just through your awareness and intention. Imagine your breath sending out energy to all who need it, nourishing and nurturing the world with love and compassion
Meditation is the surest way to open a channel of healing. The silence of pure awareness is extremely refreshing to the mind, which finds it increasingly easy not to cling to old thought patterns; rigid habits of thinking and feeling begin to fall away of their own accord. When this happens, the mind is actually learning to heal itself.
Physical impurities in cells have their equivalents in the mind: fear, anger, greed, compulsiveness, doubt, and other negative emotions. Operating at the quantum level, they can be as damaging to us as any chemical toxin. The mind body connection turns negative attitudes into chemical toxins, the so-called “stress hormones” that have been linked to many different diseases. Ayurveda lumps all negative tendencies together as “mental ama,” which needs to be cleaned from the mind. But how?
It is not possible to purify the mind by thinking about it. An angry mind cannot conquer its own anger; fear cannot quench fear. Instead, a technique is required that goes beyond the domain where fear, anger, and all other forms of mental ama hold sway. This technique is meditation. If properly taught and used, meditation allows a person to become unstuck from the ama in thoughts and emotions. At the Chopra Center for Wellbeing, we teach Primordial Sound Meditation (PSM), as a simple, natural way of accomplishing this goal.
Meditation is not forcing your mind to be quiet; it’s finding the quiet that is already there. In fact, when you examine the background static of worry, resentment, wishful thinking, fantasy, unfulfilled hopes, and vague dreams in your head, it becomes clear that the internal dialogue going on inside is literally controlling us. Each of us is the victim of memory—that’s how the Vedic masters diagnosed it thousands of years ago. Meditation is the surest way to open a channel of healing. The silence of pure awareness is extremely refreshing to the mind, which finds it increasingly easy not to cling to old thought patterns; rigid habits of thinking and feeling begin to fall away of their own accord. When this happens, the mind is actually learning to heal itself.
What you experience daily is different levels of awareness. Meditation is taking you deeper and deeper inside yourself, until you reach the area untouched by illness. This is a very real part of yourself. As you keep meditating, moments of clarity expand and become the norm. It is a kind of letting go, allowing yourself simply to be. And when you allow that to happen, your attention will always go back to the silent, peaceful, unchanging level we simply call the self. The self is the home base for the mind, and by returning to it, you infuse your mind with the same peace and silence.
Finding your true self is a very profound process, which has no end. Your body is listening to healthier signals now, and as long as you continue to take your mind back to its source, over and over, the signals will get even healthier. You can breakthrough; getting well is just a matter of time.
Healing Rhythms, is the first whole-body wellness program to bring together three of the most prominent leaders in the field of health and wellness – doctors Deepak Chopra, M.D., Dean Ornish, M.D. and Andrew Weil, M.D. Together with Healing Rhythms’ beautifully interactive 15-Step Biofeedback Training Program, you will learn the tools to help build a happy mind and a healthy body.
Transport yourself to a new state of relaxation and ease.
Begin your guided training with relaxing breathing and meditation exercises proven to be effective in reducing stress including techniques lead by experts in the field of health and wellness:
Deepak Chopra, M.D.
Dean Ornish, M.D.
Andrew Weil, M.D.
Watch your body respond in real-time, on screen!