Currently viewing the tag: "meditation"

MindfulnessI’ve been teaching mindfulness and meditation courses for the last six years. The big question beginners usually have is what they will achieve from taking on the practice. This question can come in many forms, sometimes with statements like: “Will mindfulness increase my energy?”, “Does mindfulness really work?”, and “What will I get out of mindfulness?”

Many benefits come as a result of taking on mindfulness or meditation practice, from the physical to the mental to the spiritual, but most importantly it allows one to come to know oneself more deeply. This may not sound so enticing to the person looking for some real magic to come from their efforts, but I assure you that the depth of your being is far more exciting and magical than you can understand at this point. The most I can get across without your experiencing it yourself is that you will develop and learn more than you might imagine at this point – you do not even have the reference point yet to understand, but you will in time, along with a number of progressively developing powers.

The primary power you will attain is best illustrated with a story. Almost everybody is familiar with the image I’ve posted. It is a Pulitzer Prize winning photo of Buddhist monk Thích Quảng Đức, who burned himself to death on June 11, 1963 in protest of the persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government. Buddhists were banned from flying their flag in Huế city on their holy day of Vesak, the birthday of Gautama Buddha. In dissent of these orders, Buddhists gathered with their flags to protest the edict and were fired upon by government forces. Nine protesters were killed that day by gunfire.

As a result, U.S. journalists were contacted and told of an important event that would take place the following day outside the Cambodian embassy in Saigon. Reporters who were there saw a procession of 350 monks and nuns carrying banners denouncing the South Vietnamese government and its policies toward Buddhists. A sedan carrying Quảng Đức rolled ahead of the procession. When it reached its destination in front of the embassy, three monks, including Quảng Đức exited the car. Quảng Đức calmly sat down on a cushion in the traditional lotus position, closed his eyes and began meditating. Another monk, removing a five gallon gas canister, came over to the meditating monk and emptied the entire contents of the canister over Quảng Đức’s head. Quảng Đức rotated a string of wooden beads while repeating a Buddhist mantra; he then struck a match and dropped it on himself. The flames engulfed him quickly and furiously. Quảng Đức remained poised throughout. He was a master of mindfulness – he never broke his concentration.

David Halberstam of The New York Times, who was one of the reporters present that day, described it like this:

“Flames were coming from a human being; his body was slowly withering and shriveling up, his head blackening and charring. In the air was the smell of burning human flesh; human beings burn surprisingly quickly. Behind me I could hear the sobbing of the Vietnamese who were now gathering. I was too shocked to cry, too confused to take notes or ask questions, too bewildered to even think … As he burned he never moved a muscle, never uttered a sound, his outward composure in sharp contrast to the wailing people around him.”

I once told this story in one of my classes, and the attendee, a doctor, asked, “Why are you showing us this picture?” It is simple; I want you to understand what is capable by the human mind. You see, humans have only two instincts: reproduction and survival. Like all living things, humans are driven to spread their genes and persist as life forms. And like all other life forms, humans have an instinctual drive to survive. If you are attacked, chances are you will do whatever necessary to survive – you will run, hide, fight, scratch, bite, climb, swim, and anything else that might keep you alive. You might even eat human flesh if there is nothing else available. That is what happened to Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571, later known as Andes flight disaster, a chartered flight of 45 people, passengers and crew, which crashed over the Andes Mountains in 1972. The surviving 16 spent 72 days lost in the mountains before they were rescued, and ultimately had to resort to cannibalism, albeit reluctantly. They did what was necessary for survival. Their ordeal was made into a movie called Alive.

MindfulAnother film, called 127, staring John Franco, is the story of avid mountain climber Aron Ralston. Ralston goes climbing in Utah but fails to tell anybody where he was going. He has an accident and gets his hand caught between a rock and a hard place. After several attempts to free himself over days, he ultimately has to amputate his own arm. As grueling as this sounds, it is a true story, Aron Ralston did what he needed to survive. Most people would do whatever they could. It is human instinct.

And this is precisely what I want to get across with the story of Quảng Đức. What would most people do if they were on fire? Naturally, one’s instinct kicks in and they will attempt to extinguish the flames: rolling on the ground, patting themselves, and screaming at the very least. But not Quảng Đức – he sat there in quiet meditation, never moving a muscle. How did he do it? Was he some superman? Did he have special powers? The answer is no. Quảng Đức was a human being no different than you or me. He had one element, however, that he had mastered: his ability to focus his mind beyond all physical and mental distraction. It was this power that kept Quảng Đức in a peaceful composure throughout, completely overriding his human instinct for survival.

Now if this isn’t awe inspiring, I don’t know what is. Does that mean one will be inspired to emulate Quảng Đức? No but think of the potentiality of the intense focus and to what ends it may be used – it is exhilarating! If one can transcend even one’s own instinct for survival through mindfulness, what cannot be endured; what cannot be accomplished? Thích Quảng Đức has become the empyrean of mindfulness practice, the highest potentiality we can wish to attain in our own practice; to approximate, if not to become.

Mindfulness brings many benefits to the practitioner. A powerful, laser focus is the foundation for so much more. Think of the physical (sports, games, sex), intellectual, and spiritual accomplishments you can muster with such potent focus. Think of the circles in which you can play with strength of focus. Truly the world will become your playground when mastering the power of mindfulness. Your time and energy is a small price for such an enormous attribute. Start working today and increase your mindfulness potentiality to Thích Quảng Đức power. You too might affect the world long after your flame has flickered out.

mindfulnessMindfulness has become a fashionable term over the last few years, for good reason: as an ancient practice cultivated to allow practitioners to come to know themselves, mindfulness has been shown scientifically to reduce mental and physical effects of stress. Stress can be both beneficial and detrimental, depending on how one perceives it, but since most people tend to experience stress negatively, it can lead to a number of physical conditions which ultimately break down the body. In fact, stress related disorders are estimated to be responsible for 75-90 percent of all doctor’s visits, causing such problems as headaches, upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, chest pain, problems sleeping, and even sexual problems. Having a tool, then, to minimize stress and its effects on the mind and body is invaluable.

Mindfulness is the deliberate attention to Self – a moment by moment awareness of what is going on around and within oneself. It is attentively observing experience as it unfolds without evaluating or judging it and also accepting what is and what isn’t, in the moment, in present time. Mindfulness is the practice of being in the here and now in full attention. I like to call it conscious consciousness – one is consciously aware of one’s consciousness when in mindfulness. Easier said than done for the uninitiated, but reaching this state is definitely cultivatable.

To understand mindfulness one really needs to understand mindlessness. Mindlessness is not a derogatory term as it is used here – it does not mean stupid, ignorant, or thoughtless. What it refers to is the state of being on auto-pilot. The human brain has evolved for a certain amount of efficiency. Like other autonomic processes, we do not have to think about our moment to moment brain activity. To understand this, it is best to first make note of processes in our body that need no conscious awareness: breathing, digestion, nutrient assimilation, waste production and elimination, cellular respiration, and the list goes on and on. Like these processes, many brain functions require no active input on our part. In fact, our brain produces thousands of thoughts per day. It is difficult to know how many, but one really comes to understand the constancy of our thought stream when trying to quiet the mind in meditation. Thoughts are like molecules produced continuously in a cell – they happen whether we want them to or not.

complexityMore importantly, they happen without our taking notice. We do not have to think about our every action. We do not have to initiate every move, only the decision, and sometimes not even that. By freeing our mind of these routine actions, we are able to concentrate more on complex actions and behaviors, we are able to think about abstract ideas, and we are able to self-reflect (as far as we know, the only species that does this). Complex thinking has led to the creation of musical masterpieces, mathematical theories, and technological innovations. It has inspired timeless art, revolutionary science and allowed us to ask and ponder the great philosophical questions of life, those that give our lives meaning. Without an automation of our primary thought system, it is questionable whether we’d have ever accomplished anything more than our most basic survival. Automation of thought is the first and foremost system used by the brain on a regular basis. More than ninety percent of our day is made up of habitual actions. According to Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Prize winning psychologist and economist, ninety-eight percent of our mental processes are of the automatic, effortless, and unconscious kind, even though we tend to believe we are making rational decisions throughout the day. Most people are thus walking through life effortlessly unaware, allowing their automatic thoughts to flow in and out of consciousness, and create a stream of time which ultimately frames their experiences. I like to call this unconscious consciousness – consciously awake, just not aware.

This influx of automatic thoughts is barely noticed, except from time to time when a thought so pleasurable or disturbing enters the awareness causing desire or fear, and even many of these come and go with little notice. For the average person, unrestrained thought-flow, or what some call mind-chatter, can lead to anxiety, depression, mental overload, fatigue and even more severe mental illness. Unrestrained thought-flow can thus become a source of stress. Add to that all the other things we must act on in any given day, and it is no surprise that the bulk of doctor’s visits are for stress related conditions.

focusWhile many people turn to drugs and alcohol in a futile attempt to quiet the mind-chatter, these mind-alterers actually make matters worse over time. The only way to diminish mind-chatter is to pull the mind into attention. That’s why sports and exercise have been popular since antiquity. By focusing on a physical activity, the mind is forced into what Kahneman calls system 2 thinking, or one which is done with our conscious mind – conscious consciousness – effortful, intentional, and controlled. Making art and music are also amazing mind-chatter reducers. So is doing math, or thinking about anything in detail, like when you strategize or follow a protocol. Anything which forces the mind to focus reduces mind chatter (one reason smart phones have become addictive). However, even these activities, when done repeatedly can become automatic. Without a doubt, people strive to make automatic as many of their activities as possible. We call this mastery. And mastery makes what was once effortful a habituation. As a result, once we master an activity, it does have the potentiality to become an automatic process.

For all these reasons, practicing mindfulness regularly through meditation is an ideal activity. Working the mind into focused attention, about nothing in particular, is like lifting weights for the body. It is a mental exercise that enhances all other activities by the sheer strength of sharpening the awareness. This, over time, allows the mind to focus its attention during routine day-to-day activities, in other words, to attain and maintain conscious consciousness. The more we achieve states of mindfulness, the better we are minimizing stress: mind-chatter reduces, awareness improves, creativity is enhanced, and communication and personal connection deepen as a result of a meditation practice. Not only does this have positive consequences for our mental health but for our physical health as well. Health challenges caused by stress – like pain, addictions, chronic infections, and sexual dysfunctions – can be reduced and even remedied by taking up a regular meditation practice. Something as simple as a daily commitment to intentional awareness has the power to improve health and create wellness.

Mindfulness is a state of mind not easily accessed without some intentional effort. Working earnestly at focusing one’s awareness trains the mind to enter a state of conscious consciousness more regularly and with less effort. Once it is ingrained into the habituation system, all activities are illuminated by increased awareness. While it, too, will become a more automated process, it will paradoxically lead to spontaneity, as we become more conscious of every moment, bringing new meaning to our experiences. Ultimately, awareness assures our growth and development, which leads to richer experiences, in a cycle of expansion and change, keeping things novel and interesting. You can continue to walk through life on unconscious auto-pilot or put in the effort to become more aware, and thus more appreciative and attentive to the details that make your life rich.

Part 2

Brain statesIn part one of this series, I discussed how former drug users might benefit physically by taking up a regular meditation program. I also touched on how former drug users are at an advantage when it comes to “finding the Self”, as the mind-altering action of some drugs approximates the deeper states of meditation. In this piece, I will address a few mental and inspirational elements that regular meditators enjoy, which will also help former drug users find what we are all ultimately looking for—a deeper connection to our true Selves—all while keeping them off dangerous drugs.

The Way I Cope

Drugs not only make the body feel good, they make the mind feel invincible. Amphetamines were given to World War II pilots as a way to keep them awake and alert on numerous sorties throughout the war. Even today, speed-like drugs are given to ADD-labeled children and adults to help them concentrate. Drugs do, in fact, enhance our mental capacities in the short-term. Whether talking stimulants for alertness and concentration, or the mind-expanding quality of hallucinogenics: the primary use of many recreational drugs is for altering mind-states.

Stress copingGoing within via meditation also alters consciousness states. As we deepen our meditative practices, we pass through states of consciousness that simulate dream states or even deep sleep (albeit consciously). It is for this reason that former drug users have a hand up on most non-users—they know what it feels like to pass through these varying stages of consciousness. When meditating, the former drug user will recognize and feel a sense of calm, ease and comfort passing through these stages. Call it an acquired skill to feel comfortable as one makes it through these transitions. The average person often must take several passes through a consciousness state to feel comfortable enough to allow it to happen on its own without a mental disruption or dispersion of the state.

From a mind perspective, meditation has also been shown to decrease anxiety—a godsend to anybody who uses, or has used, drugs at one time or another “to cope.” Studies have shown meditation increases stress adaptability as well. Or plainly, regular meditators handle stress better—one reason some people turn to drugs to begin with. Further, meditators have been found to feel less lonely. It is well known that loneliness is associated with increased incidence of illness and death. A regular meditation practice, then, goes a long way to preserve the psychological, emotional and physical wellbeing.

Finally, regular meditators have been found to have increased brain activity in the prefrontal cortex, the area responsible for executive function, while simultaneously decreasing activity in the amygdala, the area of emotional reaction. Executive function encompasses a number of mental processes, but put simply, this region is responsible for inhibiting emotional outbursts or impulsive behaviors. The amygdala, on the other hand, is the area where memory, decision-making and emotion work together to elicit quick responses. These two regions are regularly at odds with one another, balancing how we wish to act—venomous anger for example—with how we contain ourselves. The amygdala in teens, for instance, develops much more rapidly than the prefrontal cortex, leading to more reactionary decisions and impulsive behavior (one reason teens are at higher risk for accidents). But by meditating regularly, executive function is enhanced while reactionary amygdala function is depressed, and thus the practitioner becomes more poised and disciplined, thinking things through rather than exploding in unrestrained emotion.

The Voice I Hear

Woodstock-1969Some people have had spiritual experiences on drugs, as attendees at Woodstock or today’s raves might attest. This is because chemical substances acting on the brain can open doors to insights, compassion and even a feeling of “oneness,” things we ultimately all crave as human beings. For this reason, many habitual drug users return again and again to drugs to relive a temporary experience which we intuitively feel should be more permanent.

Users who have spiritual experiences are correct in their intuition—feelings of oneness are our birthright, and they should persist beyond the temporary high felt from drugs. The only way to tap into this eternal unity is by going within and awakening to the Self. While the term Self is actually interchangeable with many others—God, the absolute, the final reality, etc—it is incomplete and incapable of fully describing what yogis would call the source of all things. No matter which name you give it, this source is what we all truly want: reconnecting with the Self is the inner drive which underlies all human desire. And it is exactly this which is the basis for people turning to drugs.

When we uncover our true Selves, however, we concurrently uncover the bliss inherent in our source of being. Through this uncovering we come to realize that we exist in this material dimension (our form) for a purpose, and the deeper we go within, the stronger our realization of our life’s purpose becomes. But interestingly for the former drug user is that this realization also brings to light the purpose of the chosen path of substance abuse. Most people enter professions where they wish to make a difference, either in an area which they perceive themselves to have failed in the past, or in an area which they themselves have been helped. It is not surprising then that many former drug users, myself included, look to make a difference in the world of recovery—helping other addicts shake the illusions of the high drugs provide, and in finding the truth inherent in uncovering the Self.

Helping Drug AddictsRegular meditators have also been found to cultivate greater compassion—for themselves and others. Why is this important? Because it is so easy to beat oneself up for perceived mistakes one has made, and every other shame and guilt that comes along with drug addiction. Having compassion for one’s choices comes from a deep understanding that one receives as a result of going within. By understanding the greater purpose of our choices, we can open up to a world of gratitude for the life we have lived, and how it has lead us down our current inspired path. The highest service in life comes through giving from a place of compassion—the I-have-been-there-before state of empathy. Nobody can relate to this more than former drug users who have dedicated their lives to helping others, and this compassion is enhanced by a regular meditation practice.

Meditation has also been found to improve a person’s skill at introspection—the ability to reflect on one’s life and oneself mentally and emotionally. People who have a strong ability for introspection come to know themselves better, make better choices, and experience greater growth spurts emotionally and spiritually. As a consequence, meditation also opens the floodgates to inspiration, so creativity is enhanced as one quiets the mind of its incessant chatter and allows the Self to reflect unimpeded. Most creative geniuses have a way of tapping in—meditation is one surefire way to unleash our inherent potential and express creative genius. Start today to take advantage of this power we all possess.

OnenessPeople typically return to drugs to recreate an experience that brought them close to feeling the bliss of oneness with all things. That is because drugs open doors to states of consciousness which simulate stages we pass through along the path to union—the known deeper states of meditation. Drug-induced altered states of consciousness, however, are short-lived and they come with many unwanted side effects, most treacherously death. But what drug users are searching for is what all people ultimately search for: the bliss that comes from awakening to our true Selves. While many paths to the Self exist, meditation is time-tested and proven; its effects are long-term, and its many changes are permanent. Drugs will never bring the seeker what he or she is looking for, because like all external experiences, they are transitory and illusory by nature. Only by going within and uncovering the true Self will an individual find what he instinctively seeks: union with the entire universe. Meditation is a tool available to all of us—rich, poor, young, old, male or female—to bring us in-touch with our true essence, while enhancing our lives in body, mind and spirit. But even more astoundingly, former drug users may be at an advantage as they have experience in passing through various altered states in which the average, non-drug user is not so immediately comfortable. These reasons seem overwhelmingly encouraging for those in recovery to take on a meditation practice. Turn on and tune in, if you will, and you will find exactly what you have always been looking for.


56a70bad78832.image (Copy) When it comes to cardiovascular events—heart attacks and blood clots in the heart or lungs—time is of the utmost importance. The sooner the person having the cardiac event get medical attention, the greater their probability of survival, and the greater their chance of preventing irreversible damage to the muscle tissue of the heart, which can eventually lead to heart failure. Most people know the symptoms of a heart attack—chest pain, shortness of breath, and pain in the left arm or between the shoulder blades. While these symptoms can be experienced by both men and women, women, in fact, can have unusual symptoms, and these differences may keep women suffering a heart attack from seeking immediate attention. Awareness of these signs of heart attack in women could prevent disaster, particularly so for black and Hispanic women, according to the American Heart Association.

While heart attack rates between men and women favor men slightly, women die at a higher rate of 1 out of every 3 to men’s 1 of 4—heart disease is the leading killer of both sexes annually. While chest pain, left arm pain and shoulder pain are typical and well known, as are shortness of breath, anxiety and dizziness, women can also feel nausea and vomiting, which does lead some to pass symptoms off as the flu or food poisoning. Women may also feel pain between their shoulder blades or neck pain, which is especially deceiving if the woman already has pain in those areas. Women tend to be about a decade older than men when they suffer heart attacks. And if women have diabetes, their risk is four to five times higher than it is for men.

heart-healthBlack women have a higher incidence of heart attacks in all age categories and young black women have greater probability of dying before they leave the hospital. Black and Hispanic women are also more likely to have heart-related risk factors such as diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure at the time of their heart attack.

Once a heart attack starts, time is of the essence: Getting help quickly minimizes damage and increases the chance of survival. Nieca Goldberg, M.D., medical director for the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health at NYU’s Langone Medical Center and an American Heart Association volunteer, says: “Although men and women can experience chest pressure that feels like an elephant sitting across the chest, women can experience a heart attack without chest pressure. Instead they may experience shortness of breath, pressure or pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen, dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, upper back pressure or extreme fatigue.”

And on women ignoring symptoms,“Many women I see take an aspirin if they think they are having a heart attack and never call 9-1-1,” Goldberg said. “But if they think about taking an aspirin for their heart attack, they should also call 9-1-1.”

Heart disease can be reduced by following some health basics:

  • photogallery_heart_disease_prevention_10_fullExercise – you have got to move; you have got to sweat. Fail to do either and increase your risk significantly.
  • Eat well – whole, natural foods, moderate portions, lots of water, fresh juices, vitamins supplements.
  • Rest – sleep and downtime are very important. People who don’t sleep enough are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease—regardless of age, weight, smoking and exercise habits.
  • Mental – balance those mental charges; Deep breathing and meditation go a very long way here
  • Minimize toxins – smoking, liquor, drugs, sugar, etc.
  • Medical – after 40, get checked consistently (to me rhythm is more important than frequency, but this will depend on your awareness and regular attention to body-health)

Women need to be mindful of heart attack symptoms. In sheer numbers, women are not much different from men, so knowing the warning signs of a heart attack, especially the unusual ones, may be the difference between life and death. The sooner any person having a heart attack gets into treatment, the less likely they will suffer irreversible tissue damage, which is almost a guaranteed future cardiac event. Be smart, ladies, save this link and go back to read the symptoms of heart attack every January 1st—it just might be the wisest health practice to do all year.

Part 1

Cocaine BlissDrug addiction is a form of seeking. The high we get from drugs is the closest thing to the altered states of consciousness that are the hallmark of deeper states of meditation, including samadhi, and thus drug users—most unconsciously—are seeking what we all are: the internal source of bliss. Bliss can only be achieved from within, whether it be inspiration, fulfillment, joy or any other state of being; it is an inside job. Drug addiction, then, is like any other attachment to the external world—it is our seeking fulfillment from things outside of us.

The quest for bliss, or a something other than what we experience in the purely physical world, is a real and ubiquitous drive—a universal human yearning. We bounce from experience to experience, desire to desire, and even relationship to relationship—what the yogis would call gaining knowledge—seeking this bliss. And all these quests for the outer are necessary to lead us to the reality of the inner. Drugs and chemical highs are no exception. In fact, former drug users may even be at an advantage on this quest, as the altered states so familiar to substance abusers most closely approximates the different states the meditator passes through on his or her way to Self-realization.

Learning the Self is the most rewarding experience we can have, as it lasts a lifetime. While every former drug user has learned invaluable lessons about herself, only through conscious awareness and awakening can true Knowledge—and all it affords—be had. In seeking the Self the greatest of all fulfillments is ours—the bliss we are never able to find in outer experiences. By taking on this quest, the former drug user has the greatest probability of remaining clean, because what is a temporary high when compared to bliss?

russell brand meditatingThe quest to “find” the Self can be carried out by a number of paths. One such path is meditation. Meditation, the art of silencing the mind and going within, is a profound practice, one which has a number of short and long term benefits for the former drug user. The benefits range from the physical, like a decreased risk of debilitating cardiac events, to the mental (increased emotional control), to the spiritual, like greater creative inspiration. In the following paragraphs, I will touch upon these benefits of body, mind and spirit to encourage former users to take up the habit of going within. I am certain that when I am finished you will see that the enormous advantages the practice of meditation affords are far greater than any momentary highs we get from drugs.

The Way I Feel

Dopamine system

Click to enlarge

Drugs feel good—we can thank the dopamine system for that. But the physiological sensations resulting from drug actions are temporary and come with the risks of tolerance, withdrawal and potential overdose. Going within, on the other hand, particularly via the path of meditation, provides physiological changes which are longer lasting, and many even permanent. These physical changes can feel good too, but they are subtle and come on gradually, so there is really no high with true meditation.

Meditation has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiac events—like heart attack and stroke—by one half. At risk African American men and women were given either a meditation program, muscle relaxation exercises or conventional health education courses. Those participants who meditated had nearly half the risk of suffering a cardiac event. These findings are particularly valuable for recovering methamphetamine and cocaine users, as stimulants can stress the cardiovascular system (heart and blood vessels). Further, the practice of pranayama (breath control) works to slow the metabolism, bringing down heart rate, respiration and blood pressure. These physiological changes are imperative for any person who has been artificially speeding up their cardiovascular system with drugs.

Meditation also has been shown to reduce pain, fatigue and depression. Many people who suffer from chronic illness turn to drugs to alleviate pain. A 2010 study showed that an eight-week course of mindfulness training reduced all three symptoms above, and improved health-related quality of life for people suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS). As any long-term drug user will tell you: part of the package that comes with substance abuse is pain, fatigue and ultimately depression. Here we now have evidence of the power of going within for alleviating these overloading sensations which often plague chronic drug users.

healingFinally meditation may lead to improved healing—something every drug user needs, as repeated use of chemicals can and does lead to breakdown of the body. Both inflammation and immunity are altered by meditation. Inflammatory processes have been observed to diminish, while immune function has been found to increase in regular meditators. As self-healing, self-regulating organisms, we need our innate powers to function unimpeded. While drug use hinders our healing abilities, quieting the mind and going within enhances them instead. Choose meditation and watch your miraculous regenerative powers operate in full force as your body and mind return to their most optimal functioning states.


When one thinks about meditation, rarely does science come to mind, or heaven forbid, business and commerce. Since most people equate meditation with a spiritual practice (as if that is something separate from the rest of the human experience), they tend to think of science, business and commerce as more mundane aspects of life, and thus the antitheses of the goals of meditation. But nothing could be further from the truth.

neutralizing waves of emotion

Meditation is the practice of clearing the mind, and going within oneself to seek the Source of all experience, knowledge and action. It is purposefully altering one’s state of consciousness to more deeply and firmly connect this source within oneself; by doing so, a number of interesting things begin to happen. Yogis and sages have described many of these interesting things for millennia, but it was not until the twentieth-century that science actually started to take notice.

meditation studiesMeditation has been heavily studied since the 1950s. Sixty years of research has uncovered some remarkable things. Not only does meditation affect the physical body, but the mind and human behavior as well. But what does any of this have to do with business and commerce? As I alluded to earlier, it is impossible to separate the many facets of life, and why would we want to? Business and commerce, as a crucial element of our daily lives, is as potentially enhanced as any other area of life by the interesting things brought about by a regular meditation practice. Over the next several posts, I will be outlining some key findings in the meditation sciences and how they pertain to business and commerce. You will see when I am through that today’s companies cannot afford to keep this information from their personnel any longer. If you wish to expand in business, you will be far more successful with a team trained in the art and science of meditation.

Meditation Improves Creativity

perksToday’s companies are doing just about everything they can to foster a culture of creativity within their ranks. From encouraging “play time”, to expanding workplace flexibility, to offering numerous perks to employees including in-house personal and professional development programs, the modern organization strives hard to give itself the competitive edge. Creativity leads to innovation, innovation to products, products (through marketing) to sales and profits. With creativity, Amazons, Facebooks and Googles are born; without it…Blockbusters, MySpaces and Yahoos die.

Creativity is crucial in both a company’s personnel and its operation/management. Thus having a way to cultivate creativity intrinsically, organically and reliably would be a most valuable asset to any company. Science has shown meditation’s ability to enhance creativity by promoting divergent thinking—a style allowing new ideas to be generated.

Blockbuster Death

Meditation also has a significant effect on three other creativity-interdependent traits: innovation, problem solving and novelty. And there is no doubt that regular meditation plays a role in shaping the mind physically, making these valuable qualities a conditioned, and therefore potentially permanent, part of the individual. Please understand the magnitude of this, and how it might strengthen an organization in the same way farm team does for a big league ball club: by acting as a foundation for an entire culture, in which the core values and characteristics of a company can be instilled and expressed uniquely throughout the individuals making up its personnel.

Innovation

Open-MindBecause of meditation’s ability to “neutralize” the mind’s “waves of feeling,” which make up the incessant mind chatter permeating most people’s thoughts, it creates an open space for which new and imaginative ideas can come into formation. Inspiration may come during meditation, but more likely it arises spontaneously throughout one’s day, be it during wakefulness or sleep. A clear mind has a way of doing that.

Every great thinker throughout history has had these moments of inspiration, and many have had specific rituals to get them in the space of receiving. This power is inherent in all of us, but some have discovered the ability to tap-in at will, while others simply need to be taught. Meditation, or quieting the mind, is a potent, efficient and ever-evolving tool to touch this level of innovation regularly.

Problem Solving

emotional controlProblem solving is vital to company’s survival and success. Customer service, public relations, lost market share, competition all require quick and decisive thinking. For this, clear minds and controlled emotions are paramount, and nothing beats regular meditation as a way of conditioning these qualities of mind.

A 2007 study showed that people practicing a mindfulness exercise called affect labeling, in which participants were required to label facial expressions with the appropriate emotion, had increased activity in the right prefrontal cortex and decreased it in the amygdala (limbic system). The right prefrontal cortex is responsible for many functions, but most significantly executive function: the management and control of cognitive processes which includes working memoryreasoningtask flexibility, and problem solving, as well as planning and execution. The amygdala (the alarm center in the brain that triggers stress-related feelings), where memory, decision-making and emotional reactions are processed, was subsequently inhibited.*

Another study showed meditation’s ability to increase emotional adaptation strategies—how feelings are processed—and reduce emotional reactions (which are often abrupt and unrestrained). Further, other studies showed a greater ability of meditators to accept “negative” emotional events and continue mental functioning with minimal error.*

Novelty

One uniquely human characteristic is our drive for novelty. We constantly crave “new and improved’ in every facet of life, and this is what guarantees business and commerce an eternal role in human affairs. The ability to discern what can and should, in fact, be made better (yes, even the wheel!), comes down to a clear and sharp mind. Nothing beats meditation in creating an environment of clarity and novelty.

neuroplasticityAs I mentioned earlier, meditation has shown irrefutable evidence of influencing a practitioner’s neurology—that is, shaping their actual nervous system. Studies have shown that the incredible brain changes seen in long-term meditators also happen to be cumulative; so in other words: the more meditation, the greater the changes. This ability to change and reshape our brain and nervous system is known as neuroplasticity, and is crucial in creating new habits and skills. Just think, a company can increase its potential for regular novelty and innovation, while also shaping the neurology of its personnel to maintain a greater openness to creativity—a win-win situation under any circumstances.

Seeking-The-Self-Book-Cover

Available for pre-order for 50% savings

Again, think about it: How much can meditation enhance the minds and lives of an organization’s personnel? How much could a culture of regular mind-quieting expand the parameters of a business or industry—by stimulating innovation, effective problem solving and novelty? How valuable would an in-house training program be for the infrastructure of a company? These are questions today’s businesses must surely ask themselves when trying to remain competitive or garner dominance within their industry. While modern companies are doing everything they can to keep their employees loyal, including opportunities for personal and professional development, adding a meditation instructional program is completely new and cutting-edge. The professional mindfulness coach will not be simply versed in the art and mystery of meditation, but also understand the culture of commerce and how a meditation program can benefit a company in its core values—providing quality goods and services for public or private sectors for a fair compensation. If this makes good business sense to you, then please contact me at drnick@drnickcampos.com so we may discuss how we can implement a quantifiable and measurable meditation program within your company.

*Both excerpts from my soon to be released book, Seeking The Self Through Meditation, available through pre-order for significant savings

The key teaching in the first book of the Yoga Sutras is the verse: “Yogaś citta-vritti-nirodhaḥ.” While a number of different translations for this Sanskrit (the primary holy language of Hinduism) line exist, they all essentially mean the same thing: “Yoga is a quieting of the mind.”Another interpretation which I love is:

“Yoga is the neutralization of the waves of feeling.”

Yes! If you can visualize thoughts as vibratory waves, propagating as concentric rings from the mind outward into the world, then you get a good representation of the manifesting powers of waking consciousness.

Propagation of a Mirage - DrNickCampos

By envisioning these propagating waves of feeling, we can see how our desires and fears, likes and dislikes, attachments and repulsions drive our perceptible experiences, and ultimately become manifest in the world. So yogaś citta-vritti-nirodhaḥ is a neutralizing (I love this term) of the thought waves of feeling, which is the goal of yoga—to be thought-less (without thought), to quiet the mind. It is within this quieting that meditation—and ultimately samadhi, or union—takes place. ~ Dr. Nick Campos, Seeking The Self Through Meditation

This excerpt from my upcoming book illustrates the final goal of yoga—union—along with its means: quieting the mind. Silence and union are the hallmarks of a complete yoga practice, which according to the Yoga Sutras includes eight limbs, or observances, that lead to the ultimate state of samadhi. While Patanjali (author of the Sutras) outlines one clear path to union, by no means does it stand alone; in fact, within the Hindu based philosophies, a number of equally viable alternative paths exist. The eight limbed yoga of Patanjali, however, is an excellent foundation for beginners, of which asanas or poses (what we typically refer to as yoga here in the west) are an essential limb. A weakened, tight, restricted and painful body is not really conducive to yoking, so if one cannot sit comfortably in silence (meditation), samadhi is rather unlikely.

While asanas are essential to yoga, true yoga comes from quieting the mind. Regular silencing has massive effects on the body (backed by extraordinary research), mind (more studies), and character (yup, studies even here). But the most valuable benefits which come from silence cannot be understood by mere words—they must be experienced.

Seeking The Self Through MeditationI believe every serious yoga student deserves to have this experience, and that is why I have created Seeking The Self Through Meditation, a twelve-hour comprehensive course on the meditative components of yoga.  The course covers technique, philosophy, movement and silence, the necessary foundations for a powerful yoga practice. This course is as much experiential as it is theoretical. While history and philosophy lay the ground work, this course uncovers tested and proven techniques for entering and maintaining  a state of “mindlessness,” along with multiple opportunities to practice during guided meditations. Additionally, this course addresses some of the physical obstacles to maintaining a long-term sitting posture, and the specific corrections to removing them.

I am offering this course to yoga, fitness and dance studios as a way for their instructors or members to deepen an already existing asana practice. It means little if your current asanas are traditional, gym training or dance, your practice/workout/sport/art will all benefit from the principles emphasized in this course. Further, you will learn ancient secrets to a complete body, mind and spirit vibrancy—timeless teachings of Self-awareness that are the spark of immortality.

For bookings: contact drnick@drnickcampos.com

Copyright © 2013 Dr. Nick Campos - All Rights Reserved. Web Services by David Cosgrove Los Angeles Web Design