Meditation Matters

Meditation Mumbo-Jumbo…documented with Science!

MRI’s show change in grey matter density with as little as 8 weeks of practice. EEG’s track brain activity during meditation showing what areas are enliven by meditation and which are calmed. Studies are reproduced with similar results all over the world. Double blind research studies as well as comparative effectiveness and epidemiological studies agree that mediation offers profound benefits for the body and mind. While science is able to show benefits and some explanations, the spiritual connections that can be made during meditation are still left as individual to the meditator and not included as components of modern research. I’m choosing to use easy access resources instead of scientific journals to ease you all into the science. If you want the hard stuff of the NCBI, let me know!

Meditation can change your brain.

  • Meditation improves processing of thoughts, new information and sensory input.
  • Meditation increases your capacity for compassion & empathy
  • Meditation reduces stress & fear
  • Meditation improves sense of self

Read more
Chopra Center
Harvard Gazette

Meditation changes your body.

  • Reduces Chronic Pain
  • Improves many digestive challenges like IBS.
  • Improves Immune Function
  • Increases Heart Rate Variability

Learn more
Scientific American (interesting videos) –
Harvard Gazette (different than previous article)

There is no one correct way to meditate, rather many different techniques with various results.

  • Using breath connections
  • Mantras
  • Mindfulness
  • Trancendental
  • Body Scans
  • Loving-Kindess
  • Spiritual Connections
  • Counting and number work

This list could go on forever. How can you choose the best style of meditation for your needs? It often takes a teacher and sometimes a group to begin your meditation practice. Take classes with different teachers and learn many techniques, paying attention to your responses. Be open to what is working, and if it is not, return your mind to a technique of meditation that has offered you a sense of calm and focus in the past.

Learn more:
Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley

Meditation is not as simple as sitting still and quiet however that is a fantastic start. We at JOURNEYoga believe it is a powerful tool of transformation and is a possibility for everyone. Start or continue your JOURNEY to better health, less stress and and more meaningful connections!

Do Something!
Sit down. Shut up. And Breath…. if it were only that easy.
Maybe sign up for a class at JOURNEYoga instead.

Yoda? No, that’s my Dad!

Sanyama: Perceive. Believe. Become.

How old were you, when you began to see the wisdom of your father’s words? And I do mean your dad. The one who raised you and said things that you challenged…I’m certain I was more than 25 when my dad’s wisdom became accessible.

My father

This is the night “yogurt” became “yoda.” That is Yoga to the rest of us…

“And what did you learn from this?” Became a reflection instead of a punishment.

“You are who you hang around.” Altered to be more about my conscious choosing of friends than him not liking my boyfriend.

“Perceive. Believe. Become.” Stopped being a pep talk and has turned into a way of life.

In the 8 Fold Path of Patanjali, the final three steps, when practiced together, are called Sanyama.  Concentration (Dharyana), Meditation (Dyana) and Samadi (Samadi). I really struggle to place a single word translation to Samadi and think it is best described through the complete practice of Sanyama. Some people translate Samadi as bliss but that even takes explanation.

Concentration requires you to place your thought patterns somewhere and work to keep them there.  If you are writing a thank you note to your friend, your concentration is on gratitude and word choice.  Keep your conscious mind focused.

Meditation takes concentration one step further. If your conscious mind is focused without distractions, you can alter your state of consciousness and enter meditation.  Here, the object of the mind’s concentration, gratitude for your friend, is managed by the brain in a totally different way and assimilated deeper into the meditator’s belief system.

Samadi is when the object of concentration, has become the meditation and you reawaken the conscious mind with a new, deep, and profound knowledge. By concentrating and meditating, the brain has changed, allowing you to become the object of your meditation, more grateful for your friend.

Oh Dad. Look at this. My Yogurt… I mean Yoda…. I mean Yoga is a lesson you taught me!

Perceive – Concentrate
Believe – Meditate
Become – Samadi

I concentrate on the love I have for my father. I meditate on the love I have for my father. After meditation, I know and feel how much I love my father. This is Sanyama.

Think about it

Even without the vocabulary of Sanyama, my papa’s theory of perceive, believe, become works.

Perceive you are weak. You will believe you are weak. You will become weaker.
OR
Perceive your strengths. Believe in your strengths. And become as strong as you can be!

A continuous state of love

My niece is super easy to love!

My niece is super easy to love!

How are you doing with your Love-a-lution? I’m still working on mine… but it is more than just an idea. The spark of love absolutely lives within me and I try to share it. What is love? I can’t find a definition big enough to encompass all that I believe love to be, but I JOURNEY on…  with friends, family, my husband, and strangers.  Love is everywhere.

This quote from Eckhardt Tolle is amazing!

Love as a continuous state is yet very rare, as rare as conscious human beings. – Eckhart Tolle from The Power of Now

  1. By saying love as a continuous state is very rare, says that someone is doing it!!!! It might be rare, but someone is doing it! I would LOVE to meet this spectacular human who lives in a continuous state of love.
  2. As rare as conscious human beings.  Is this the answer?  Do we simply need to become conscious humans?

I believe that part of being a conscious human being is about making choices.  We simply need to continue to choose love. When I make a truly thoughtful decision, it is influenced by love.

Now you choose….
Hate or love?
Frustration or love?
Dislike or love?
Prejudice or love?

I choose LOVE every time! This choice integrates compassion into a situation and makes less room for unwanted emotions. By consistently choosing love, you are conditioning your body to have loving reactions.

Another way to practice being in a continuous state of love is to meditate. Maybe practice using the mantra, “I choose love.” This places your entire being into the concentration of love.  Sanyama – When your Daryana becomes your Diana you benefit from Samadi.  When the object of your concentration becomes your meditation, you receive a profound knowledge of that object.  Think about the power of meditating on love.

Think about it

Would your world change if your reactive emotion was love? What would that look like? Could you find a continuous state of love?

I’ve started flossing again!

floss

Flossing can be awkward and even painful… so can meditation.

As I began class on Sunday, I was telling everyone that I was flossing again.  But with flossing, I’ve found a new challenge. Now that I’ve cleaned out the grooves in my teeth, more things, like kale, are sticking in them! A regular student looked at me and confidently asked, “So what’s the yoga spin?”

Let’s use flossing as a parallel to meditation or asana. Flossing is awkward and can be painful. Same for meditation or asana. Flossing gets rid of what doesn’t belong (plaque) and makes space for healthier items to get hung up (kale). In meditation we take time to remove thoughts that don’t belong. We replace them with healthier, positive statements; cleaning our minds in the same way we clean our teeth.

kale

Carry with you healthy and useful thoughts.

While working though asanas, I encouraged people to replace their thoughts. Instead of challenging or judgmental thoughts (this is hard, I am tired, I can’t do it) with the directions on how to do the pose (press your heel into the ground, engage your inner thighs, tighten your belly). Once concentration was focused on accomplishing the alignment, change began to happen! In meditation, mantras can be used as positive affirmations. Make a conscious choice to remove selective thoughts (vrittis) and replace them with the a mantra.

The same student who challenged me to spin flossing into a yoga lesson asked me to write this class down and do it again! So here it is and I’ll see you next week!

Do Something!

Floss. Eat more kale. Selectively remove thoughts and replace them with positive affirmations.

Hari Om, Namaste

Similarities can eliminate duality!

My 5th grade niece did an impromptu word study connecting knowledge of her DARE class to words she read in church. During church she leaned over to her mother and exclaimed, “HalleluJah and mariJuana are the same!” She noticed the use of a silent “J”. She then got the giggles, and of course, created more of a scene than her mother wanted.

But what a gift!  To be able to see similarities in so many places brings us a step closer to oneness. Identifying similarities in words, people, church, and in nature is a gift. In yoga, the ultimate challenge is to find oneness, to feel connected and empowered by all around you, and to go beyond what is tangible, knowing that you are united with the Great Divine! Yoga means to unite.

The Bhagavad Gita discusses the importance of eliminating duality and the benefits of doing so. Instructions are provided, to eliminate duality, finding samadhi through meditation. What I see, is that we can begin to practice for samadhi by finding similarities whenever possible, just as my niece did.

Delusion arises from the duality of attraction and aversion, Arjuna; every creature is deluded by these from birth.

Excerpt From: Eknath Easwaran. “The Bhagavad Gita.” Chapter 7, verse 27.

Well flip and flap!  From birth?!?!?  Krishna tells Arjuna that we are affected by duality from birth. True. We are separated from our mother and primal oneness with the mother is lost. It takes work and conscious effort from birth on to reconnect with our source, God. Even in oneness, we find individual distinctions but recognize we all have the same distinctions.

Thus he (Krishna) is both happiness and suffering, birth and death, being and nonbeing. Like the Brahman of the Upanishads, he is beyond duality, utterly beyond the constricting categories of the things of this world.

Excerpt From: Eknath Easwaran. “The Bhagavad Gita.” The Introduction to chapter 10.

When we see similarities, the categories of things and people begin to fade and distance among people diminishes.  We become one.

Start small.  Hallelujah and marrijuana use the letter “J” in the same way.  I am interested in gardening, just like my neighbor down the street.  I am seeking a spiritual path, just as my catholic sister does.  We are all the same. We are one.Do Something!

In your downtime, begin to train your brain to find similarities. Watch people in public and look for what is the same.  When you are in conflict, look for similarities. If you are in conflict with another person, focus on what is the same between the two of you. If you are having internal conflict, accept that you have distinct emotions, but they are the totality of your oneness.
You are all that!

Hari Om

Peace is complicated… but everywhere you look!

Context: I gave up on India for a moment and checked myself into a 5 star American Hotel chain and was running on a treadmill with Bon Jovi blaring in my headphones. I realized that while running and breathing (much cleaner air than I had in weeks), I felt alive! Vibrant! And yet peaceful.  How is that possible?  To be so filled with energy and appreciation for the action of life, and yet peaceful.
Explanation: For many years, I tried to make my life fit on a single line continuum with peace on one end and chaos on the other. I felt as if I always lived somewhere in the middle of these two points and rarely ever at peace. Peace is always present. It is in the middle of our being and available if we look for it. We may not always sit in the heart of peace, but it is never far. Among all our other emotions and actions, if we look for peace, it is present!Peace is Complicated
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali explains this phenomenon in the third chapter, verses III.4-7. This translation of the Yoga Sutras is by Alistair Shearer from the book, The Unadorned Thread of Yoga.

III.4 Dharana (conecntration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (shining knowledge) practiced together are known as sanyama.

III.5 When Sanyama is mastered, the light of supreme knowledge dawns.

III.6 But, sanyama has its application at every stage of the development of this knowledge.

III.7 It is the heart of yoga, more intimate than the preceding limits.

Explanation of these sutras tells us that we must practice. When concentration on an object (dharana) flows into meditation of that object (dhyana) and then the meditation flows to shining knowledge of that object (samadhi), sanyama is gained as a tool.  Once knowledge is gained, it never departs.  I meditated on God while on the banks of the Ganga and in temples and felt profound peace.  My concentration and meditation on God flowed into a shining knowledge of God.  I can only describe this knowledge of God as a profound sense of peace.

While running and feeling an active sense of life, I looked in my heart and mind and could feel, within the intensity of life, a profound sense of peace!

Application:  Now that the knowledge of God (peace) is present in my life, I can use Samadhi or sanyama as a tool to reconnect with God (peace) anytime I wish.  This understanding of peace in my life provides stability and an ability to let go while practicing non-attachment. As Alistair Shearer translates the sutras, “This is the heart of yoga, more intimate than the preceding limits.”  Connection. Union. God. Peace. It’s all here and this is the goal of yoga. Peace is always in us.  We simply must practice observing it and making space for peace to reside.

Do Something!

Sutra III.6 says it is the application of sanyama at every step that allows the development of the knowledge of peace or God.  We must never stop applying concentration, meditation and samadhi. So get on it!  Shut down the computer and take a few minutes to meditate of the object of your desire. God? Love? Peace?

Hari Om, Namaste

Can your pet peeve become a source of humor or gratitude?

Towels on a bar I have plenty of pet peeves. Like my towel touching another on a towel rack. The space where they touch doesn’t dry as well. Seriously odd, right? And that sliver of possibly wet towel really doesn’t matter… but it bugs the flip and flap out of me! I announced this to my husband, who shares my towel rack and experiences my wrath when our towels touch. Now I laugh every time I take a shower… as we are renovating our bathroom, I now DON’T HAVE A TOWEL RACK!!! Suddenly, towels touching on a rack sounds luxurious.

Transformation from annoyed to laughing: 

  1. Acknowledge to yourself or others that your pet peeve is indeed without serious consequence.
  2. Notice that you have the power to control your response to the annoyance.
  3. Create laughter as a response. You’ve heard me say to a beginning yogi, “Fake it till you make it.”? Well, that goes double for pet peeve’s. Laugh!

Or try to do it all in one step. Meditate more. Sit with yourself, thoughts and experiences and just wait, recognizing that your thoughts do NOT demand immediate responses. Meditation can be a great practice for life.

The thing I am most grateful for, during this holiday season, is perspective. The ability to see and even create joy and laughter. The awareness that we can look objectively at life and see possibilities and opportunities everyIMG_2660where. To recognize that we can all act with love and patience, if we chose to. One of the most amazing aspects of my life is knowing that I can take at least a breath before I respond to life. I can see multiple perspectives (like what it would be like to not have a towel rack) and chose my response. This makes life way more fun and my relationships with others filled with ease, love and patience.

Think about it
What do you let annoy you, that you could choose to laugh at?

Hari Om, Namaste