Tag: Meditation

Starting Out on The Meditation Journey

If meditation really works then we want to engage in it.

Those who watched the video that was the central component of yesterday’s post will not have missed the references by Ted Meissner that scientific, double-blind evidence shows that meditation offers benefits for us humans.

Both Jean and I are especially interested in learning more and, hopefully, finding an appropriate meditation group in our nearest town, Grants Pass.

We would also welcome feedback and advice from any of you good people who have trod this path before.

For example, when one conducts a quick internet search into the different forms of meditation there are dozens of websites that are returned in the search findings. Almost choosing one website at random, the Visual Meditation website declares there are 7 Types of Meditation.  As in:

  • Transcendental Meditation (TM)
  • Heart Rhythm Meditation (HRM)
  • Kundalini
  • Guided Visualization
  • Qi Gong
  • Zazen
  • Mindfulness

To my uneducated eye, not one of those types seems to accord with the type supported by the American Meditation Society:

OUR MISSION

  • To provide instruction in meditation as taught by the founder of AMS, Gururaj Ananda Yogi.
  • To preserve and share the universal teachings of Gururaj with integrity and wisdom.
  • To provide a place where those who wish to unfold the inner self may do so in the company of other like-minded people.

Back to the plot! For this post is about the science.

The following video seemed worthy of sharing with you.

I watched the first 10 minutes before deciding it should be shared. By the time this post is published Jean and I will have watched it to the end. [20:45 yesterday evening. Jean and I have just finished watching the Bob Roth video below. It was both fascinating and very helpful!!]

The Aspen Institute

Published on Jun 26, 2016

Published studies have documented the many physical and mental health benefits of meditation, including decreased pain, better immune function, less anxiety and depression, a heightened sense of well-being, and greater happiness and emotional self-control. Google Scholar turns up almost 700,000 research documents on meditation, among them imaging studies that show increased activity in brain regions associated with attention, a higher volume of grey matter, and lessened amygdala response to emotional stimuli. What actually happens in the brain when we meditate? Why is meditation so nourishing to the mind, body and spirit?

Perri Peltz, Interviewer
Bob Roth

But a search of the YouTube website using the search term “meditation science” brought up many other links to shorter videos.

I selected the following (2:23 mins) because it is presented by Ferris Jabr who is an Associate Editor with Scientific American magazine.

Bottom line to my way of thinking is that this is something worth committing to once we know much more about engaging in meditation.

Your experiences most welcomed.

(And, of course, when it comes to chilling out for hours regularly each day then there’s another thing we can learn from our beloved dogs! No better demonstrated than by Brandy yesterday morning in the following photograph!)

Stillness!

One of the classic lessons we can learn from our dearest dogs.

In yesterday’s post, towards the end of the essay by Russell McLendon was the following paragraph:

All this may seem like an esoteric quest for neuroscientists, but it’s about more than just academic curiosity. By knowing which parts of the human brain generate our sensation of happiness, we might develop more accurate ways to test methods of becoming happier, like travel, exercise or meditation.

I have written before on the subject of stillness and how important it is for us humans. That was a post back in August where I shared an interesting talk by Pico Iyer The Art of Stillness.

Anyway, back to yesterday’s post and the essay that was linked to from the word “meditation”. An essay that I am going to republish in full, within the terms of Mother Nature Network.

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Russell Simmons says meditation is the key to greater happiness

Business magnate shares the benefits and practice of daily meditation in his new book ‘Success Through Stillness.’

By: Michael d’Estries, March 6, 2014

Book cover of "Success Through Stillness"
Book cover of “Success Through Stillness”

For those wondering if the daily practice of meditation really works, Russell Simmons has both a succinct response and a more in-depth answer totaling more than 220 pages.

“Today my new book ‘Success Through Stillness: Meditation Made Simple’ comes out,” he recently wrote in a blog post. “As the title suggests, it is a very straight-forward, easy-to-digest guide on how to get past whatever misconceptions or apprehensions you might have about meditation and learn how to use this simple yet incredibly effective tool.
“As I move around talking about the book, one question I seem to get asked over and over again is, ‘Does meditaion really work?’ And my answer is always an unequivocal ‘YES!'”

The 56-year-old vegan and healthy living guru, who has built a net worth estimated at more than $340 million, says he was skeptical at first that 40 minutes of daily meditation could do anything to stem the anxiety he was feeling.

“The idea of being still and operating from a calm place is one that I never would’ve thought would’ve suited my lifestyle or my goals or the way that I pursue life, ’cause I pursue everything with a vigor,” he told Yahoo! News.

Simmons explains that he practices mantra-based meditation, in which one repeats a word or sound for a period of 20 minutes. Simmons repeats the word “Rum” over and over, a process he says has led him to greater happiness.

“I come out of meditation, and sometimes I just start giggling, I feel so happy, right in the mornings,” he shares.

According to a study released earlier this year, while feelings of happiness may not necessarily occur for all practitioners of meditation, reductions in anxiety, depression and possibly pain are possible.

“Meditation helps young people and adults to get control of the noise,” says Simmons. “The noise is the cause of almost all sickness and sadness. If we can calm the noise, our relationship with the world benefits tremendously.”

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If you would like to buy a copy of Simmons’ book, in Kindle, Hardback or Paperback formats, then do click on the link below.

Success Through Stillness: Meditation Made Simple

Finally, to underline how dogs are such wonderful examples of being still, do enjoy the following photograph that was taken earlier yesterday morning.

P1150822
From left-to-right: Cleo; Oliver; Sweeny; Hazel; Jeannie; Pedy.

I truly envy a dog’s ability to be still so easily!

Our thoughts make us human

Serendipity strikes again!

Recently I read a post from Val Boyco over on her delightful blog Find Your Middle Ground.  Her topic was about breathing. Here’s a flavour of her post:

I’ve written before about how our breath is connected with our wellbeing and emotional state. Noticing how we are breathing is a tool that we can use to monitor how we are doing.

There is another pause that comes with our breath which is also revealing. The pause at the end of the exhale before we take in more air. When we are distracted, stressed or in an anxious state, there is no pause. We don’t trust we have enough air and we don’t allow ourself to relax and let go.

Just take a moment to tune into how you are breathing right now. Just notice without judgment.

Pausing at the end of an exhale can only happen when we are relaxed and in tune with our mind and body. When our body and mind are aligned in the present moment.

I then left a reply in the comments section:

Excellent advice. For the last few weeks I have been using a biofeedback unit that through guiding one to breathe in harmony with a musical phrase allows one to slow the whole body down. Down to about 4.8 breaths per minute. It really underlines how slow one’s breathing rate can be and, supporting your post, the glorious pauses after each inhale and exhale.

And offered to write a post about the unit and my experiences. (Coming out tomorrow.)

However, what I wanted to do as a ‘lead-in’ to that post was to discover if there was any research into the benefits, as in scientific benefits, of slowing one’s body down in this fashion. What is surely nothing more than a form of meditation. Where to start looking? Needn’t have worried; there were many items on YouTube that covered the benefits of meditation.

There was a video from the AsapSCIENCE guys Mitchell Moffit and Gregory Brown, but I found it too jazzy and irritating, rather ironically! Then there was one from physicist John Hagelin that seemed much more appropriate to my tastes (and that is featured tomorrow as well).

By now it was coming up to 4:30pm and I had a dozen other things to do, plus try and fit in a biofeedback session – I could feel the stress rising within me.

Then I dipped into Terry Hershey’s latest Sabbath Moment and, guess what! Here’s what I read:

Learning to let go

January 26, 2015

Hershey2

Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go. Herman Hesse

Uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security. John Allen Paulos

When you let go of trying to get more of what you don’t really need, it frees up oceans of energy to make a difference with what you have. Lynne Twist

——-

Today I am sitting in a café (and bar) in Vaison-la-Romaine, in the Provence region of France, nursing my espresso.

No, wait… that was last week.

It just sounds sexier than saying, “Today I’m looking out my window at a gloomy winter sky, here in the Pacific Northwest, with a Thesaurus in hand hoping for a gushing synonym for gray.”

Welcome home. Home for me is always awaited and valued, but still elicits a bout of scotoma (selective vision), where we end up comparing the life we have, for the “life we deserve” (the actual wording for a recent advertised e-course).

My favorite part of my recent France trip was visiting family run wineries, spending time with the owner / wine-maker, with the permission to linger, sensing a comfort grounded in story and connection. Said one (when we asked him about being a small winery–in a world where big is everything), “I am glad. I am not alone. I work with family.” (Referring to his son and three daughters.)
And it makes me wonder about this mental sleight of hand we use, thinking about the life we are destined for, as somehow different (or better) from the life we now we live.

There is a Tibetan story about an earnest young man seeking enlightenment. (Earnest people must think this quite unfair–since they play a central role in most parables and stories about enlightenment.)

A famous sage passes through the man’s village. The man asks the sage to teach him the art of meditation. The sage agrees. He tells the man, “Withdraw from the world. Mediate every day in the specific way I will teach you. Do not waver and you will attain enlightenment.”

The earnest man follows the sage’s instructions to the letter. Time passes — and no enlightenment. Two years, five, ten, twenty pass.

It happens that the sage once again passes through the man’s village. The man seeks him out, grumbling that despite his best intentions and devotion and diligent efforts, he does not achieve enlightenment. “Why?”
The sage asks, “What type of meditation did I teach you?”
The man tells him.
The sage says, “Oh, what a terrible mistake I made! That is not the right meditation for you. You should have done another kind altogether. Too bad, for now it is too late.”

Disconsolate, the man returns to his cave. Staking his life on the sage’s instructions, and now believing he is without hope, the man abandons all his wishes and efforts and need to control his road to enlightenment. He does not know what to do. So, he does what he knows best: he begins meditating. And in a short while, much to his astonishment, his confusion begins to dissolve, and his inner world comes to life. A weight falls away and he feels lighter, and regenerated. When he walks out of the cave, the sky is bluer, the snow capped mountains whiter, and the world around him more vivid.

There is no doubt that all too often, our efforts–to succeed or achieve or attain–get in the way of our living. It brings to mind my favorite Robert Capon quote, “We live life like ill-taught piano students. So inculcated with the flub that will get us in dutch, we don’t hear the music, we only play the right notes.”

I understand. I was weaned on a spirituality that predicated itself on artifice. In other words, the importance is placed upon appearance, rather that just being. (It was vital to “look spiritual.” Which begs the question, “What do spiritual people look like?” As a boy, I always thought the “spiritual people” looked as if some part of their clothing was a size too small.)

What is it we are holding on to–so rigid, so firm, white-knuckled in our determination?
At some point, we’ve got to breathe.
Just breathe.
Without realizing it (and after the sage’s disheartening news), the man in the story “let go.”

He let go of the need to see life as a problem to be solved.
He let go of the need to have the correct answers (or experiences) for his “enlightenment.”
He let go of the need to see his spiritual life in terms of a formula.
He let go of the restraints that come from public opinion.

Abandon your masterpiece, sink into the real masterpiece. Leonard Cohen

Without realizing it, he took Leonard Cohen’s advice. He abandoned his “masterpiece”–the perception of what he needed to accomplish, or how he needed to appear, or what he needed to feel–in order to allow himself to sink down into this life, this moment, even with all of its uncertainty and insecurity.

For the first many years, meditation or prayer was a requirement or compulsion. In his emptiness, meditation and prayer was an offering of thanks, freely given, and without constraint. True spiritual enlightenment, it seems, happens when you are not trying to impress anyone, or score any points with heavenly bookkeepers.
It sounds easy doesn’t it?
But here’s the deal: My best intentions to play the right notes can fabricate an armor that keeps me from the vividness of life–whether it be to pray or meditate or notice or give or mourn or dance or play or grieve or laugh or celebrate or love… or just to walk.

I never did find a good enough synonym for the gray (although I’ll keep looking). Gladly, the sun has broken through. And there is enough warmth to persuade us that spring may arrive tomorrow. Daffodil shoots everywhere–up through the leaves and debris–help the ruse. So it’s garden time this afternoon, turning manure into the vegetable garden beds, beginning to cut back and clean some of the perennial beds. Enough work for the back to call a time out and request reprieve. I’m headed to the swing under the maple, when I look up to see the sun illuminating the red-twig dogwood shrubs, 10 foot canes glowing, a bright cranberry red. It catches my breath. And I am glad to be alive.

People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive… of the rapture of being alive. Joseph Campbell

Such power in those words. Then how moments later what I had read from Terry made so much sense to me. So perfectly connected with yesterday’s post Animals make us human. So relevant that quotation yesterday about animal happiness. This one:

Neuroscience key to animal happiness

…research in neuroscience has been showing that emotions drive behavior, and my thirty-five years of experience working with animals have shown me that this is true. Emotions come first. You have to go back to the brain to understand animal welfare.

Animals Make Us Human : Creating the best life for Animals

by Temple Grandin & Catherine Johnson

Such a close parallel with that well-known saying about us humans: ‘we are what we think‘. How our own happiness, just as it is with our animals, has its roots in our emotions.

How letting go, how staying in the present, is so good for us. How dogs do that so perfectly.

How we humans have so much to learn from our dogs.

Pure, deep peace radiating out from Hazel's loving eyes.
Pure, deep peace radiating out from Hazel’s loving eyes.

 

Life is never a rehearsal.

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou

maya-angelou1

In a poignant way, it seems appropriate to feature that quote from Maya Angelou in opening today’s post simply because this wonderful, spiritual woman died earlier on this year; on the 28th May, 2014.

Born in 1928 in St Louis, MO, Maya was, “… an American author, poet, dancer, actress and singer. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, and several books of poetry, and was credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning over 50 years.” (Wikipedia)

In case you are wondering why this post is reflective on life, and the inevitability of death, it is simply because in thirty-minutes time, the last (draft) chapter of ‘the book’ is being published in this place, and I was looking for something to ‘set the tone’, as it were. That last chapter is entitled: And show us the way to embrace death, and the companion to: How the dog offers us a way into our own soul, that was published yesterday.

To be precise, I had in mind two elements in setting the tone. The first being that powerful quotation that is today’s sub-heading and the second being the reposting of a recent item from Val Boyco.

As is the way in this interconnected world of blogging, I hadn’t previously heard of Val Boyco until she signed up to follow my humble scribblings in this place. Naturally, I went across to her blogsite, Find Your Middle Ground, and very quickly signed up to follow her, in return.  That’s how I came to see ‘All Things Change‘; reposted here with Val’s very kind permission.

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All Things Change

ValB

All things arise

Suffer change

And pass away.

This is their nature.

When you know this …

…you become still.

It is easy.

The Ashtavakra Gita

—-

We spend so much time and energy avoiding the way life actually unfolds, and most of the time we are unaware that we are doing this.

We have created these habits over time to avoid facing the uncomfortable feelings that are a part of life.

When we pause and create spaciousness, the resistance begins to dissipate and our inner consciousness grows.

Each time we make space, trust grows.

The more we trust, the more we grow beyond our conditioning and habits and create more space.

With space, life flows freely.

Taking time to connect inwards will not save your life, but may save you from a life of struggle and discontent.

Namaste

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I’m going to close today’s post with a wonderful quote from Sharon Salzberg, taken from her book: Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation. It seems as relevant and as powerful as that opening quote from Maya Angelou.

It is never too late to turn on the light. Your ability to break an unhealthy habit or turn off an old tape doesn’t depend on how long it has been running; a shift in perspective doesn’t depend on how long you’ve held on to the old view.

May we all turn on the lights in ourselves so that we may better leave a light burning in the hearts and minds of others.

For our lives are for real!

Our inner and outer worlds.

To awaken one’s true self, one must awaken the entire world.

As you may gather from the sub-heading above, this is not a typical post today! (If there is a typical post in this place!) In fact, I think this is the first time in over five years of publishing Learning from Dogs that I have devoted a post solely to a full-length film.

But the film so perfectly picks up the theme of yesterday’s post, Quietening one’s self down, that it was too good an opportunity to miss.

The film is called Inner Worlds, Outer Worlds and that website explains:

 

Inner Worlds was created by Canadian film maker, musician and meditation teacher Daniel Schmidt. The film could be described as the external reflection of his own adventures in meditation. As Daniel came to meditative insights, he realized that these same insights were discovered over and over in spiritual traditions around the world and that all traditions share a common mystical underpinning.

He realized that it is this core experience that connects us not only to the mysterious source of all creation, but to each other as well. Along with his wife Eva, Daniel currently lives in a log home tucked away in a forest of tall pine trees located in Ontario, Canada. It is in this beautiful setting where they run a meditation and yoga center called Breathe True Yoga www.breathetrue.com.

Daniel has studied meditation from the traditions of Buddhism, Taoism, the Yogic traditions of India, as well as the mystical traditions of various cultures, and has come to his own teaching method helping point people towards their own inner wisdom and knowledge. “Meditation eva-smallis not so much a technique to master as it is a re-orientation of the heart; a selfless act of love and surrender into the mystery and stillness at the core of our being“.

Daniel has always had a strong life connection with sound and music. He has been a composer for over 20 years with an extensive library of music venturing into many genres and styles, and he is the President and CEO of REM Publishing Ltd. Music is not something to be comprehended merely with the hearing faculty. The vibratory nature of the universe is understood when we recognize that everything is music.

Eva has studied and teaches chakra yoga, hatha yoga, meditation and healing through expressive arts. She has integrated yogic traditions from around the world and attended the Pyramid Yoga Center in Thailand for extensive yoga training. Eva is a sound healer, artist and was a strong creative force in the editing room as “Inner Worlds” was being created. Together Dan and Eva were the Shiva and Shakti forces that birthed the film into the world.

It became clear during the making of the film that Inner Worlds Outer Worlds had to be released for free for the benefit of all beings. In the ancient traditions the dharma or “the truth” was always taught freely and never for personal gain or profit in order to preserve the purity of the teachings. It is Daniel and Eva’s belief that to awaken one’s true self, one must awaken the entire world. Daniel and Eva have started the Awaken the World initiative www.awakentheworld.com to bring the ancient knowledge back to the earth in order to restore balance and harmony on the planet.

 

If you want to dip into the film then here’s the trailer.

But many, including Jean and me, will want to watch the full film.

The website Top Documentary Films offers this summary (the links below will take you to other films on meditation):

Inner Worlds could be described as the external reflection of Daniel Schmidt’s own adventures in meditation.

Akasha is the unmanifested, the “nothing” or emptiness which fills the vacuum of space. As Einstein realized, empty space is not really empty. Saints, sages and yogis who have looked within themselves have also realized that within the emptiness is unfathomable power, a web of information or energy which connects all things.

The Spiral. The Pythagorean philosopher Plato hinted enigmatically that there was a golden key that unified all of the mysteries of the universe. The golden key is the intelligence of the logos, the source of the primordial om. One could say that it is the mind of God. The source of this divine symmetry is the greatest mystery of our existence.

The Serpent and the Lotus. The spiral has often been represented by the snake, the downward current, while the bird or blooming lotus flower has represented the upward current or transcendence.The ancient traditions taught that a human being can become a bridge extending from the outer to the inner, from gross to subtle, from the lower chakras to the higher chakras.

Beyond Thinking. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We live our lives pursuing happiness “out there” as if it is a commodity. We have become slaves to our own desires and craving. Happiness isn’t something that can be pursued or purchased like a cheap suit.

So here is the film:

Part 1 – Akasha

Part 2 – The Spiral

Part 3 – The Serpent and the Lotus

Part 4 – Beyond Thinking

To close, let me offer these links.

The Inner Worlds Movie website is here.

As each film link on YouTube notes:

All 4 parts of the film can be found at www.innerworldsmovie.com.

Music from the film can be found at www.spiritlegend.com.

Sacred geometry posters and products can be found at: http://www.zazzle.com/awakentheworld

My closing thought? I can’t do better than to repeat this from the film’s website:

It is Daniel and Eva’s belief that to awaken one’s true self, one must awaken the entire world.

This strikes me as very pertinent, for I see a world sorely in need of a new awakening.

 

Quietening one’s self down.

Not without a touch of serendipity.

I’m speaking of meditation.

That is all I seem to do when I approach the subject: speak and think about it but never do it!

However, I think I may be approaching a turning point. All thanks to a follower of Patrice Ayme’s blog.  It was a comment from ‘R.’ in response to my question on this PA post.  Here’s how the comments flowed (hope this isn’t too long-winded but I wanted to select all that seemed appropriate to the post):

R:

I run 5d/wk, and I notice my thinking/contemplation is “heightened” during cardio. I believe this is no different than the “high” you get when taking some drugs (mushroom, weed, etc).

Physical exercise also helps keep my rest of the day sharp. But this is just keeping the engine (physical body) fit, thus helps thinking straight. Nothing more.

Meditation/awareness is the main key. And you need some way to be in it 24/7, not just during (or little while after) exercise . And “calm and collected” is the way for it. You can sustain this through out the day, and even during sleep/dream states (according to advanced meditators). “Calm” not as in “looking at navel”; calm as in “focused, in control, zen-like”. This involves moral conditioning too, as it’s hard to be calm if you have any shred of fear. And the way to lose fear, is through ideal morals (aka dharma, natural law).

There are higher meditative states (permanent, sustained), humans can get into. Temporary highs are just that.

—-

Patrice:

R: To be answered mostly in a separate comment. Meditative states are numerous. They are even necessary to some physical activities. It can be called concentration in some cases. Deep diving in apnea is an example. There is a case when meditation is life saving. Miss the meditation, miss the resuscitation.paul, like any new habit, meditation takes time to cultivate. It is after all a life long endeavor of “understanding one’s self”. It is easier if we dont view it as some new task (or half-hour daily exercise in navel-gazing).

—-

Me:

Having re-read the essay and others’ comments, causes me to speak a little about my own short-term memory failings. I’m 70 later this year and in the last, oh I don’t know ( can’t remember 😉 ), 2 or 3 years, my ‘event’ memory has declined dreadfully. But it’s not uniform. Even after 2 years, I still struggle to find certain shops in nearby Grants Pass but do recall clearly when our bridge washed out after we moved into the house in October, 2012.

There is no discernible pattern, and other men of my general age frequently suffer the same way.

If there were mental exercises that helped stem this problem, I would love to know more; assuming I could remember the details!

—-

R:

If i may, try meditation. A simple meditation exercise is just to be aware of yourself in all activities you do (initially we find ourselves lost often, but if you keep at it, soon % of being with yourself greatly exceeds losing self. calm, control and clarity is developed.). A good barometer/progress is to see if the daily activities drive you, or you drive the daily activities.

Of course physical exercises/fitness are absolute minimum. For old-age i would recommend yoga (fancy word for stretching and proper breathing)

Meditation while doing yoga with proper breathing (pranayama) gives out of this world results (this whole process is collectively called “yoga”).

And you can “be in it” 24/7 (as yoga includes sitting, sleeping poses too; It just an art of proper physical + mental positioning through out the day).

If eastern keywords are disturbing, ignore those. Just like everything else, the more you do something, the more you become that. This is particularly (exponentially) true for mind stuff.

—-

Patrice:

R: Paul is obviously a very reflective person. I do not exactly know what would be the distinctive definition(s?) between reflective and meditative states. I do know, though, that some sports (solo climbing and apnea) require total neurological control.

R:

Reflection/contemplation/meditation all of these help in mind (habits, inertia, anything thats limiting/holds-back) transformation.

Meditation is reflection on self. Reflection on daily activities takes time away from reflection on self. Increasing self awareness makes apparent all blind spots (wisdom).

If you are a physically able, healthy human, almost all your problems (aka “suffering”) are mind related. Physical body (including physical brain) just needs basic (of course healthy) sustenance.

Me:

R, yes I concur entirely about the majority of ‘problems’ being mind related. I have on my bookshelf next to me Roy Masters’ book ‘How Your Mind Can Keep You Well – An Introduction to Stress Management.

But if there’s one thing I would like to crack is starting and maintaining a programme of meditation. So many have recommended this approach and, rationally and emotionally, I know it will offer benefits. However, for some reason I can’t translate that ambition into actually starting.

Would love to listen to your advice about how to get started. You don’t have a blog do you? If not, fancy writing a guest post for Learning from Dogs! 😉 Contact details on the home page.

(Sorry Patrice – didn’t mean to hog the channel!)

Patrice:

Hog all you want, Paul. Even when I disagree with you, I find you interesting. Meditation and memory are vast questions. I pointed out that too much memory could be bad,  basically. The first thing to get good memory, is to stop stressing about it, and thinking about what we really care about, without getting drawn to, and drowned, in formalism.
PA

R:

Paul, If you are just looking for basic stress relieving meditation, this one looks good.

‘R’ then very kindly sent me the following:

To permanently establish this habit, first our mind needs to be convinced of the benefits.

Like any hobby, we need to develop an interest in the topic. And this means reading up on theory, on what is mediation, why do we need it, what happens if we pretend it doesn’t exist.

There are different styles of meditation, and different end goals, different schools of thought.

Self-inquiry is my preferred approach, as it’s the only thing you can rely on (your own self). There is a lot of literature on this. But all of this is just food for thought, nothing more.

There is also vast Buddhist literature: you can ignore all the theology and just focus on basics. Theory becomes a burden , so all conceptual knowledge has to be discarded. So I don’t advocate any philosophy or sect or schools of thought: Only believe in your realisations.

The end-goal of all this is full wisdom; reality as-is; liberation (end of suffering); control of one’s self; “the world is truly yours”; you are capable of handling anything; you can exercise “real free-will”; you are at ease being you; your knowledge will be flaw-less; and, finally, you will naturally empathise with others (as you will be aware what others are going through).

This is not some mumbo-jumbo, you will realize and experience it for your self.

This is about wisdom as in practical common-sense.

I am totally convinced by those heartfelt words. I’m sure there are others who, like me, have talked about meditation but done no more, hence me sharing this with you.

Anything to learn from dogs?

Are you kidding!

Cleo deep in meditation.
Cleo deep in meditation.

oooo

Pharaoh demonstrating the art of contemplation.
Pharaoh demonstrating the art of contemplation.

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Cleo, deep in meditation.
Young Oliver, learning new ways in meditation.

My case rests!

Meditating.

A guest post from Sue Dreamwalker.

Last Monday, the post on Learning from Dogs was called Growing old!!

The essence of that post was to report on the following:

That’s why a recent item on the BBC News website jumped off the page at me.  It was an article called: Health kick ‘reverses cell ageing’ written by Michelle Roberts, Health editor, BBC News online.  Here is how the article opened:

Going on a health kick reverses ageing at the cellular level, researchers say.

The University of California team says it has found the first evidence a strict regime of exercise, diet and meditation can have such an effect.

But experts say although the study in Lancet Oncology is intriguing, it is too early to draw any firm conclusions.

The study looked at just 35 men with prostate cancer. Those who changed their lifestyle had demonstrably younger cells in genetic terms.

The full article should be read, by the way, because it covers much more than this opening paragraph.

Anyway, one of the comments to that post was left by Sue, of Sue Dreamwalker, Here is what she wrote:

Great information and learning to Meditate even for a few minutes helps heal and relax.. Dogs have it right…. No stress!

I wrote a complete exercise I used a lot both for myself and within my circle I used to run… Hope you enjoy as you take your roots down into the earth after bringing in the Light….
you can find it here http://wp.me/p16xW7-37

Namaste! :-)

I then asked Sue if I could republish her guidance on meditation as a guest post.  Sue kindly agreed.  Here it is.

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A Meditation For My Friends

by Sue Dreamwalker

Meditation-1

Meditation.

Some Friends have been asking about Meditation and relaxation techniques, so I have put you a very simple little meditation here for starters.

You can buy books on meditation and read different techniques until your eyes pop out of your head, and you can find plenty about meditation on web sites too.  I always say there is no right or wrong way to Meditate. To meditate means finding that quiet place within your own mind, finding that peace and space to be at one with yourself.

When people say empty your mind, this is near enough impossible, as you will always have a train of thought that will pop in at times. So this is why we use the Breath.

The breath is used to bring your concentration back, so focusing on your breath may be one way in which you can stop the hum-drum of your thoughts that chatter away inside your head.

First you need to ensure you’re not going to be disturbed, so switch of the phone, find a comfortable chair, in a quiet room, and relax.  If you lie down you may find that you drift asleep, that’s ok also for that shows you have relaxed.  But preferably sit upright with your feet slightly apart and have them touching the ground. Take deep breaths breathing in and out through the nose, and close your eyes.

This is one of the meditations I do regularly.  It may seem long to read, but once you have it in your mind it will only take you 10 minutes to do. Read it through a couple of times until you have it clear in your mind, and then have a go.

meditation

Relax and take some nice deep breaths  breathing deeply and evenly, try to breath in to the count of five, hold for a few seconds and then breath out long and slow, Feel your breath rise from your solar plexus your stomach and feel your diaphragm rise and fall.

Do this for a few minutes until you feel comfortable with breathing this way. (Many of us do not breathe deep enough, so this may at first feel uncomfortable, but try not to force it, just try to get your breath into a natural rhythm).

One your breath is comfortable I want you to imagine a beautiful White light coming down in a column from up above  your head.  Almost like a search light in a darkened room.

As you breath in, I want you to breathe in this light. Imagine that it is flowing down inside your head through your crown, and it passes behind your eyes, relaxing your eyes. It then passes down over your throat, relaxing your throat.

You feel this Light which has healing properties cascading across your shoulders, relaxing your shoulders, taking all the burdens of the day with it.  You now see and feel this warm Light travel down your arms into your forearms relaxing your muscles as it goes, now it’s travelling into your finger tips, and your arms now feel heavy and relaxed.

You see the Light now travel through from your throat, down into your heart centre, feel the beat of your heart, and see the light now filling your heart and as it beats see the light dispersing throughout your veins into your whole being,

See the light travelling into your stomach relaxing your stomach muscles, down your thighs relaxing your thighs into your calves, relaxing your calves, and see the light now going into your feet relaxing your toes and feet.

And all the while you are breathing deeply and evenly, relaxing more and more.

meditation-2

Now you are relaxed and are full of healing light, I want you to now see that light coming out of the soles of your feet, as if they were roots from a tree. See these roots going down from your feet into Mother Earth, going down through the rocks, twisting and turning as they go deeper and deeper, and as they travel deeper so too you are feeling more and more relaxed.

You now see an underground cavern, with an underground pool, your roots of light emerge in the ceiling of this cavern, and illuminate it like the lights of a chandelier.

And as the light illuminates the Cavern you now see you are stood in a beautiful Crystal Cavern, The Light reflects the many luminous rainbow colours from the hundreds of giant crystals.. See the rainbow of pastel colours dance around the cavern reflection on the underground pool.

Now you can choose any colour you see, for whatever colour you choose this colour will intuitively be the right healing colour for your needs at this moment in time.

So once you see the colour you are attracted to, allow your roots to wrap themselves around that crystal, and as you breathe deeply in, see now that your roots have now turned into hollow straws, for you will now be able to breathe up that colour through your roots and as you do so, retract your roots back up through Mother Earth, breathe that  colour into your feet, feel the warmth of the healing.

Now draw it back up through your calves, up through your thighs, into your solar plexus. Breathing deeply and evenly. Feel the warmth of healing relax and heal all your worries and anxieties, breath it up into your lungs, into your heart, down your arms and into your fingers, see how relaxed and refreshed you now feel, see this colour cleansing your entire being taking with it all the debris that you have collected, all the negative thoughts, flushing you clean.

See this colour now rise and come up through your throat, see it helping you release all the words you have spoken in haste, and all the words you hold back, see them all now flow up past your eyes, helping you see that you are a Being of Light and whole and free, see that colour now rise out through the top of your head, see it cascading out into the Universe Like a fountain, and as it does so see it explode into a thousand stars, taking all your problems and negative debris with it, and know that God and the Universe will disperse this energy as it sees fit,

Give thanks to Mother Earth for her healing energy, and see the top of your head close and seal in your new vibration, and feel yourself glowing from within,

Slowly bring your awareness back to yourself sat in the chair, and open your eyes.

Sit for a moment or two and take a sip of water.

Know that you can go to your crystal cavern at any time for healing.


Soulfly

Hope you relax and Enjoy.

Dreamwalker x

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And if you want any encouragement to find that deep, peaceful place, then just breath in this picture of young Cleo letting the world go by!

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Looking at stress from a different perspective

Who doesn’t get stressed out!  Maybe not such an issue?

I have in my bookshelf a book called The Anxiety Epidemic.  On the back cover it explains this:

The Pain & Stress Center was founded in 1979, but the dream started long before that.  The goal is to help individuals realize their true potential and to support and conduct research in the areas of man’s greatest needs – natural alternatives.

I had seen the book in a second-hand bookshop and paid $1.99 for it!

Clearly I have some interest in the topic and like many others around me know that certain situations cause me stress.

Thus when recently there was a TED talk on the topic of ‘How to make stress your friend’ it seemed like a worthwhile thing to watch.  I was not wrong!

Published on Sep 4, 2013

Stress. It makes your heart pound, your breathing quicken and your forehead sweat. But while stress has been made into a public health enemy, new research suggests that stress may only be bad for you if you believe that to be the case. Psychologist Kelly McGonigal urges us to see stress as a positive, and introduces us to an unsung mechanism for stress reduction: reaching out to others.

It was an easy matter to find Kelly McGonigal’s website and discover a mine of advice and other good stuff.  For example, this:

Watch: How to Think Like a Psychologist

My fall 2011 Stanford University course “How to Think Like a Psychologist” is now available as a series of free, downloadable videos through iTunes university.

In this fun course, I invited my favorite psychology and neuroscience researchers at Stanford to talk about their work and what it means for everyday life and real-world problems. Each class starts with a 45-min lecture by the guest speaker, followed by about 30 minutes of Q&A from myself and course participants. I had a great time grilling these amazing scientists about everything from politics to education, parenting, shopping, and the scientific process. You’ll even hear a few personal stories they’ve never shared in public before!

Then there was this:

Learn: Mindfulness of Breathing.

I’m frequently asked questions about how to get started meditating, what is the best meditation for beginners, what is the best meditation for reducing stress (or training willpower, or cultivating self-compassion, or developing focus, etc.). Below is my favorite meditation for all these intentions.

You can listen to (or download) a version of these instructions and a 15-min guided practice here.

Mindfulness of Breathing

The intention of this practice is to turn your attention to the breath, notice when the mind wanders, and bring your attention back to the breath.

This meditation cultivates self-awareness, mindfulness, and the ability to make conscious choices about what you are doing. It also is good practice in not following every impulse or habit.

There are a few different ways to focus on the breath; choose the one that feels right to you.

There’s more to read here.

Of course, I couldn’t sign off without offering yet another thing to learn from dogs- relaxation.

Cleo dealing with stress!
Cleo dealing with stress!

So have a great week ahead: With or without stress!

Unlocking the inner parts of our brain.

The healing power of meditation and self-reflection.

Yesterday, I wrote about two seemingly disconnected events that appeared to resonate together.  One of those was a comment left by reader Patrice Ayme.

But that harmony didn’t stop with those two events.  Here’s how it continued to flow.

Patrice has a recently published post called Consciousness I.  To be honest, some of the concepts have been a bit of a struggle for me to understand.  However, at one point in that essay, Patrice wrote:

Meditation is a most precious, most human state of consciousness. Whereas sentience is shared with many animals on this planet, obviously, not so with the capacity for meditation. meditation allows to shut down most (over-) used neuronal circuitry, and engage more strategically important parts of the brain.

Action without meditation is as slavedom without wisdom.

That really struck a chord with me because, once again, the power of meditation has been brought into focus.  Regular readers of Learning from Dogs may recall that just six days ago, I wrote a piece called Maybe home is found in our quietness.  There were three references to meditation in that post that I will take the liberty of repeating today.

The first was:

A few weeks ago when meeting our local doctor for the first time since we moved to Oregon, I had grumbled about bouts of terrible short-term memory recall and more or less had shrugged my shoulders in resignation that there was nothing one could do: it was just part of getting older, I guessed!

“On the contrary”, responded Dr. Hurd, continuing, “There’s growing evidence that our information-crowded lives: cell phones; email; constant TV; constant news, is pumping too much for our brains to manage.”

Dr. Hurd continued, “Think about it!  Our brains have to process every single sensory stimulus.  The research is suggesting that our brains are being over-loaded and then the brain just dumps the excess data.  If that is the case, and the evidence is pointing in that direction, then try thirty minutes of meditation each day; give your brain a chance to rest.”

Then later on in that post came:

The second was a recent science programme on the BBC under the Horizon series.  The programme was called,The Truth About Personality.

…….

Within the programme came the astounding fact that even ten minutes a day meditation can help the brain achieve a more balanced personality (balance in terms of not being overly negative in one’s thoughts).

The last one was in a short talk by writer Pico Iyer  meditating on the meaning of home, the joy of traveling and the serenity of standing still.

Now come forward just three days to last Tuesday evening. Jean and I sat down and more or less randomly wondered if there was something of interest to watch on the website Top Documentary Films.  Just by chance, we came across a film by filmmaker Isabelle Raynauld with the title of Mystical Brain.

Here’s a tiny snippet from the film:

Filmmaker Isabelle Raynauld offers up scientific research that suggests that mystical ecstasy is a transformative experience.

It could contribute to people’s psychic and physical health, treat depression and speed up the healing process when combined with conventional medicine.

This documentary reveals the exploratory work of a team from the University of Montreal who seek to understand the states of grace experienced by mystics and those who meditate. In French with English subtitles.

However, as interesting as this snippet is, the power of the film is in the area of spirituality and the way that meditation can open up the brain to an incredible range of mystical experiences, as well as the impressive health benefits of slowing the mind.  Maybe, just maybe, the power of religious and spiritual experience is being understood, with some very surprising results.

So please watch the whole documentary on-line. The website of the Mind & Life Institute will also be of interest.

To underscore why the film should be watched, there is much about the nature of the theta rhythms in the brain.  The relevance of these?  Simply that when the brain is generating these regular slow oscillations the human condition is one of great peace.

Dhalia showing us humans how easy it is to meditate!
Dhalia showing us humans how easy it is to meditate!

Call it prayer, meditation, relaxation, building internal energy or life force, compassion, love, patience, generosity or forgiveness; what does it matter.  It’s what it is doing to you that matters!

So when you bury your face in the warm fur of your beautiful dog and both you and your dog appear to be transported to some beautiful, magical place you have entered that indestructible sense of well-being.

Actually, let me make one small correction. Both you and your dog have entered that indestructible sense of well-being.

Only one way to finish today’s post: I think, therefore I am!” René Descartes.

Maybe home is found in our quietness.

Our truths, our home, our serenity; all flow from stillness.

Soon silence will have passed into legend. Man has turned his back on silence. Day after day he invents machines and devices that increase noise and distract humanity from the essence of life, contemplation, meditation.

Jean Arp (16 September 1886 – 7 June 1966)

As is often the way, a number of disparate items came together for today’s post in a way of lovely connectivity.

A few weeks ago when meeting our local doctor for the first time since we moved to Oregon, I had grumbled about bouts of terrible short-term memory recall and more or less had shrugged my shoulders in resignation that there was nothing one could do: it was just part of getting older, I guessed!

“On the contrary”, responded Dr. Hurd, continuing, “There’s growing evidence that our information-crowded lives: cell phones; email; constant TV; constant news, is pumping too much for our brains to manage.”

Dr. Hurd continued, “Think about it!  Our brains have to process every single sensory stimulus.  The research is suggesting that our brains are being over-loaded and then the brain just dumps the excess data.  If that is the case, and the evidence is pointing in that direction, then try thirty minutes of meditation each day; give your brain a chance to rest.”

So that was the first revelation.

The second was a recent science programme on the BBC under the Horizon series.  The programme was called, The Truth About Personality.

Michael Mosley's brain being measured.
Michael Mosley’s brain being measured.

Michael Mosley explores the latest science about how our personalities are created – and whether they can be changed.

Despite appearances, Mosley is a pessimist who constantly frets about the future. He wants to worry less and become more of an optimist.

He tries out two techniques to change this aspect of his personality – with surprising results.

And he travels to the frontiers of genetics and neuroscience to find out about the forces that shape all our personalities.

Related Links

Within the programme came the astounding fact that even ten minutes a day meditation can help the brain achieve a more balanced personality (balance in terms of not being overly negative in one’s thoughts).

The third revelation came from Jean and me watching a TED Talk last night.  Just 14 minutes long, please watch it – you will be transformed!

Published on Jul 17, 2013

More and more people worldwide are living in countries not considered their own. Writer Pico Iyer — who himself has three or four “origins” — meditates on the meaning of home, the joy of traveling and the serenity of standing still.

Then, just three days ago, John Hurlburt, a long-time supporter and regular contributor to Learning from Dogs, emailed me his reflection on meditation.  John quickly gave permission for it to be published here.

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evening
The stillness of evening.

Evening Meditation

Our world is increasingly spiritually, morally, mentally, physically and economically bankrupt. Many people would like to change the world one way or another. Most don’t really know why. Some folks simply don’t care. The idea is to leave life a bit better than we found it when we were born.

The fact is we’re all intrinsically sacred in a universe we didn’t create. We tend to prioritize illusion and delusion above reality. Playing God is a precursor of evil.  A supreme faith in Money is self contradictory and ultimately fatal. Arrogance compounds the problem.

We connect in unified awareness through serene meditation. We experience harmony within an emerging celestial symphony. Answers flow from the inside out as we surrender to the eternal energy flow.

Be still and know…

an old lamplighter

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Finally, after having a real struggle to find the place, both psychologically and physically, where I could start my own relationship with meditation, on Wednesday afternoon, when walking the quarter-mile up to our mail-box, it struck me as obvious.

Embraced by nature.
Embraced by nature.

This quiet place on our creek where the water trickles down from an old flood irrigation dam.  Somewhere to sit under the shade of a tree, somewhere to be still, somewhere as perfect a home as anyone could ever find.

Meditation is the dissolution of thoughts in Eternal awareness or Pure consciousness without objectification, knowing without thinking, merging finitude in infinity.

Voltaire.