It was about 1985 when I first heard of a doctor prescribing meditation to a patient to address a medical condition. I was impressed. Personally, I had already seen and experienced the benefits of meditation but for a conventionally trained M.D. to recognize both that meditation improves health and that he was unqualified to teach it and needed to refer his patient — that was impressive.
Hundreds of studies show the health benefits of regular meditation. Very simply, meditation can be a form of stress reduction and stress is implicated in nearly every disease. But the benefits of meditation go beyond that. Our mind is the most powerful tool we have. With an estimated 50,000 thoughts a day, the mind can end up with a lot of exhaust residue. Meditation can help clear out the jets and eliminate the toxic buildup from negative thoughts. It also clearly relaxes the body and releases stress.
It’s all in your head. Humans try to make everything in the universe except ourselves responsible for our lives. The truth is, events in life do not generate stress. Events are neutral, though most humans struggle with that reality. Events do not cause stress. Stress comes from our thoughts about events in daily life. It is our thoughts that cause us to feel a certain way. And to make the outside world responsible is tantamount to saying “I have no control of my thoughts.” In fact, our thoughts are the only thing we have true control over. We may temporarily lose our confidence in that ability, but it can be reclaimed with practice.
If events were actually responsible for stress, how is it that one man is laid off from a job and says “Woe! How horrible!” and another man might say, “This is exciting. I’m ready for a change.” A flat tire one day, on the way to a concert perhaps, might appear to elicit “Damn! I don’t want to miss that!” and an unhappy feeling. But a flat tire on the way to a root canal and we may feel a sense of elation. Same event (a flat tire), different feeling. Oh yes, you can draw out a “because tree” of reason after reason. But each branch of feeling is the result of the thoughts that we attach to it. That means we could say, “Yeah, but one is a concert, one is a root canal.” Yet always, for each branch, the same holds true. We feel the way we do because of the belief that a root canal means one thing and a concert another. If we think “Oh dear. The root canal is going to hurt!” we will feel one way. If, instead, we think, “Wow, I was so looking forward to getting this over with,” we will feel another way. We are responsible for our feelings and stress is the feeling of what we perceive as the negative aspect of any event, be it wedding or wake. It is the petulant avoidance of responsibility that allows us to waver toward an undisciplined and unruly mind, resulting in stress taking its toll.
Practices like meditation, yoga, tai chi, qi gong, self-hypnosis, biofeedback, relaxation therapy all represent a form of stress reduction. People consider activities like exercise or a hot tub or a massage as stress reduction. Those activities are good and can be beneficial but they are activities. Relaxing the mind into abstraction requires specific intent. When our mind is intellectually active, it is busy judging. It is judgment that creates stress in the first place. The more active the mind is, the more judgments it is making, and the more insistent stress becomes. It is possible to exclude judgment and attain thoughtlessness during meditation. Attaining the subtle moments where the critical and judgmental mind is uninvolved allows awareness of relaxation and a sort of mental “purging” that lowers stress. Lowering stress in the mind lowers stress in the body. Form follows thought.
Do nothing, rest afterwards. People often believe that to meditate is to think. It isn’t. Meditation is about not thinking. Often I will hear someone complain that they have been meditating but they are not getting what they want out of it. They are thinking about meditating. Stop thinking!
Finding an answer or hearing guidance is not the goal of meditation. Our job in meditation is to shut up, to be quiet, mentally. Meditation improves our ability to listen to our inner voice at all times. Meditation can be a time when we hear, but that is not necessarily the goal of it.
(Note: There are many meditation methods. One is Transcendental Meditation. More info at TM.org.)
Heartland Healing is a New Age polemic describing alternatives to conventional methods of healing the body, mind and planet. It is provided as information and entertainment, certainly not medical advice. It is not an endorsement of any particular therapy, either by the writer or The Reader. Visit HeartlandHealing.com for past articles.