Are you familiar with the term Failure to Thrive? It is a medical diagnosis given most often to infants when they stop gaining weigh and or reaching milestones. In other words they stop growing and developing. If left untreated then death is imminent.
This is how I view meditation and other mindfulness practices. If we do not learn to engage in them regularly we are destined to die! Spiritually speaking of coarse. We have all been spiritually dead at some point or another. The question is are you currently?
Like an infant learning to walk, He needs love and support to muster the courage to take those steps. The support to get up after each fall. He eventually learns to sprint! To leap! Failure to thrive (FTT) was observed and documented in populations of orphan infants following wars, such as in Eastern Europe following WW2. Due to lack of resources and the thinking at the time, these babies, having recently lost their parents/ caregivers were warehoused in orphanages. Only their basic “survival” needs were addressed. Propped bottle feeding, minimal touch and human stimulation. Particularly the babies were not given the love and security of another Human Being/ caregiver. Most died or suffered permanent psychological damage. Turns out Love is a physiological need for Human Beings to Thrive.
What does this have to do with Meditation? Meditation has been scientifically proven (recent Harvard based studies) to increase the size of the areas of the brain associated with Self-awareness, Self-love and self-acceptance (translates love, acceptance, and empathy/ awareness of others as well). It also revealed the areas associated with Fear/ doubt/ limiting beliefs/ compulsion/ obsession decreased in size. Yes shrinkage of fear and growth of love! This occurred in approximately two months for most participants. Other known benefits are decreased stress, longevity and improved mood/ outlook. This is known among Hindu, Buddhist, Yogis, and traditional practitioners of Kung Fu among others. However, for most westerners it is more meaningful when Harvard researchers acknowledge it as fact.
So why don’t more people do it every day? In order to answer that I need to define meditation and convey the myths and mysticism surrounding the practice for the more traditional Americans/ Westerners.
Mediation is a practice that involves controlled breathing, relaxation, thought awareness, imagination/ visualization, transient alteration of awareness and so much more. It comes in many forms and I personally believe some are more effective (for me) than others. However the subjective nature of meditation is what makes it so powerful and practical. Types of meditation include YOGA, Tai chi, Qi Gong (wing Chung, Jeet Kune Do, etc) Guided, Hypnosis, Chakra focused, and so on. There are many types but most fall into two main categories yet share certain qualities to be considered meditation (this is my personal categorization. The first is active Meditation. Yoga is the most commonly known and likely practiced form. Many of you may be thinking “Wtf do you mean Yoga is meditation?” The traditional Yoga, based on my minimal knowledge is a form facilitating the flow of prana/Chi/life-force energy through the body. Opening the Chakras. I recently learned that according to tradition the initial stage of Yoga practice is to begin with introspection. There is a reason so many find calmness, spiritual awakening and more through Yoga. Unlike most types of Exercise Yoga lowers heart rate, blood pressure, decreases cortisol (stress hormone) and increases vagal stimulation. Other training methodologies do these things as well but as an after/ post-effect over time. These physiological differences occur during Yoga practice (all types even the one in which you sweat your ass off). Its not as “metabolic” as other types of training. Not to say it does not make you physically strong or fit because it certainly can. It stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system vs the sympathetic. The rest and digest aspect vs the fight or flight portion of the nervous system. This is the opposite of say lifting weights vigorously, boxing, running, Crossfit, etc. Yoga is the yin (internal, soft) and Traditional exercise is the Yang (external, hard). This concept is true for other eastern traditional training methodologies (and possibly Pilates). Martial arts such as Tai Chi/ Qi Gong is the soft aspect of Kung Fu. Jeet Kun Do, Bruce Lee’s unique style of Gung Fu emphasizes the concept of yin and yang harmony in combat/ movement. Its no coincidence that Bruce Lee’s first style of Gung Fu was Wing Chung. Wing Chun, founded by a Shaolin Nun (female) and JKD are representations of the perfect marriage of Yin and Yang and in my opinion the key to their effectiveness. Brazilian Ju Jitsu shares this ideology in its practice. This is why I personally decided to study Wing Chung after years of training in Kenpo and other forms of martial arts. In summary their are multiple types of meditation and mindfulness. The most following is one we need to all practice daily.
“Tao (or Dao) is that form in which all things in the Universe are created. The process by which all things are created is produced by this energy (Chi) which originates from Tao. This energy is divided to into two aspects: Yin and Yang. …When yin and yang energies merge together, they produce a state of Harmony.” Lao-tzu
“I feel I have this great spiritual and creative force inside me that is greater than faith, greater than ambition, greater than confidence, greater than determination, greater than vision. It is all these Combined……I feel this great force, this untapped power, this dynamic something within me. This feeling defies description and there is no experience in which it can be compared. It is something like a strong emotion mixed with Faith, but a lot stronger”. Bruce Lee
Many of us feel like “I can’t meditate. Its too difficult. I cant sit still and empty my mind”. This is BS you have been taught by those who know its power and prefer not to see you obtain it. Yes power! If you can control your mind than you can control your reality and accomplish all that you were meant to. Some facts to assist you with your new practice.
1.)You can do it in any position. No pun intended but seriously you can be lying in bed (which is how I first began). This is a great way to silence the mind and fall asleep. You can sit comfortably in chair, crossed legs etc. The idea is to be comfortable and until you are advanced enough to be comfortable I the lotus positon I do not recommend it. It’s counter productive to be in pain or in awkward positions.
2.) You can do it at any time as frequently as you need and for a few minutes a day until you progress naturally. I mentioned at night before bed. In the morning prior or following your Affirmation Immersion (see previous Blog). I now find myself waking at sunrise and sitting on my patio with my Cat. I meditate as the sun rises and she mimics bird calls and practices stalking to engage her natural huntress spirit (I prevent birds from being killed by her btw). In fact she makes sure I wake up for this despite my energy that morning. I have seen more sunsets in the last month than ever before. Other than the symbolisms, I understand most of you are not able or yet willing to adopt such a routine. That OK, do it whenever you can. Schedule private quiet time to do this. My son is still sleeping at sunrise so I am undisturbed. Hide in bathroom or in the bath if its the only time you can get away. Tell others in your household to not disturb you for 20 minutes. Put electronics away unless utilizing them in your practice. (I explain later)
3.) Find a Method to start/ teach you. There are many different types and they are debated. It doesn’t matter as long as it works for you. Just like Physical Exercise it is true some methodologies are more efficient and effective yet they all depend on your participation. Not all of us can do and enjoy Crossfit (I am biased). The same goes for meditation. Try a free version of Headspace or 10% happier (Apps for guided meditation/ lessons). Go on you-tube and find a guided meditation that works for you. You could always do as I did and buy a random book at the few remaining bookstores titled, Inner Powers written by a Sage named Del Pe. The point is find what works for you.
4.) It’s not about being “void” of thought. It takes disciplined practice over months or years to reach a mental state of “emptiness” for even a second. I am not sure but I believe my longest stent in this state was very short. The fact I retained a concept of time suggests I wasn’t in a full trance. The reason this takes time is it can freak you out when it happens. The mind feels like it is separating form you and will loose you/ yourself/ ego. It pulls you back like a child afraid to go down the slide independently for the first time. It clings to you. This is normal. Especially at first. The idea is not to force it but recognize when you mind wanders and bring it back to your intention or focus. This is how we train our minds and establish control. You don’t get to guide me, I tell you what we are concentrating on. This will eventually translate to control over your emotional state. When you get angry or scared you can objectively say; “Why am I feeling this way? Where is it stemming from? I choose to respond to this emotion in a peaceful calm manner and not how you want me too. For I control you! Not the other way around!” There is neuroscience to reinforce this notion. See Mel Robinson’s 5 second rule. She uses counting to prevent the fear based mind from rationalizing self-defeating behaviors.
5.) As you advance, adopt your own methods based on your intuition/inner guidance. I found as I developed that I naturally began expanding my focus from strict individual Chakras to a free flowing of energy within and without my body.
6.) Utilize auditory aides as needed. Their binaural beats that are scientifically proven to induce certain brain waves such as delta or theta and hence a state of calmness. 432 MHz is the frequency most commonly utilized for meditation and there are tons on you-tube. I personally prefers OM Meditation Mantra (Tibetan OMs) found on Youtube/ Youtube Red. Whatever floats your boat/ resonates with you. This is a good way to diminish distracting auditory too.
7.) Start low and go slow. This is phrase used in Nursing school when titrating and administering dangerous IV drugs ie opioids and sedatives. Just as Nursing this is true until you gain some experience and intuitive direction. Meditation is no different. Its not more effective by rushing and forcing the process, attempting to reach a goal. It does not work like that. Be calm and patient. If you are an achiever this is a great lesson/ practice.
Meditation Practice For Novices; Find a quiet place free of distractions and stimulation. A quiet room, comfy chair etc. Sit upright, reclined, or lying supine (on your back) or sidlying if you must. Make sure you are comfortable. If you need to scratch or adjust at any time please do so ad resume. Close your eyes….. relax…….breath slowly……… fill your lungs by relaxing your abdomen when you inhale, fill your lungs and hold for one….two….three…. and exhale. Repeat for 10 repetitions. NOTE: if you get dizzy or light headed stop immediately open your eyes and resume you normal breathing pattern (consult your/ a Healthcare provider or Physician prior to resuming/ see Disclosure page). While you breath think of the air as white pure light. As it fills your lungs it spreads throughout your body. It penetrates each one of your cell healing you. It attaches to your fears/ worries/ insecurities. EXHALE through your mouth slowly. Gently tighten your abdominal/ core muscle as you do. Visualize the exhaled breath as your fear (it can be any color or object of your choosing. It dissipates into the atmosphere and is trans-mutated to White Pure Light! Repeat three times when ready. I am a being of light and love! When you feel like coming back to the world do so.
I hope you all find this helpful and incorporate it into your routine. Some people like shower meditation and rituals if you care to look into it. Frankly the world would be such a better place if we all meditated regularly. It wont be much of a choice sooner or later so may as well be above the curve. I mention this other Blogs but Mediation helped my overcome many obstacle in my life and will be a main treatment in many metal and physical diseases. It has already proven to be more effective (about twice) than most (all) psychotherapy such as 12-steps and other behavioral modification program methods for addiction.
This is one reason I have such success with Coaching others.
Exerpt from National Geographic The Science of Addiction, Sept 2017
“Brewer is a student of Buddhist psychology who specializes in addiction…..Meditation and mindfulness brings awareness to what we’re doing and feeling, especially to habits that drive self-defeating behavior……Craving is viewed as the root of all suffering…….it breaks the kind of rumination that can lead to a loop of obsession.”
If you are interested in more detailed instructions on How to Meditate please comment below!
Thanks for reading, pleas like and share!
Love and Empathy
Dan McGinley RN BSN