Currently viewing the tag: "meditation"

All is OneWe often hear we are all one, but in which way are we so? Have you ever considered it? Clearly, we are all human, but within the physical domain we are assured, through genetics, an infinite variety. How then are we the same? Well, in actuality we are all the same, and it is to this sameness that great spiritual teachers have, throughout history, attempted to awaken us.

The material world is born of variety – different elements, different rock and metal composition, different phases of matter, different life forms, different species, and different environments. Every species has morphological and behavioral differences as well, which are only compounded by their relation to the environment. So between genetics and natural selection, then, the magnitude of variety is endless. For the human life form, there are also mental, emotional, and spiritual differences, that shape the temperament of the individual, as well as cultural and socioeconomic factors which act as strong influencers. Every distinct component of an individual leads to that person’s many-ness – their gender, race, national origin, sexual preference, personal style, musical taste, and palate to name but a few. Every person is unique and distinct when taking into account each difference that makes up that individual’s nuances.

On some levels, human beings celebrate differences. Most people want to be recognized and loved for “who” they are, their unique selves. While one may be proud of one’s heritage, one’s hometown, or one’s alma mater, most people want to be seen and appreciated for their authentic selves. As a result of this ubiquitous human drive, it is only natural for people to attach to the blueprint of their nuances – that is, to believe that their unique composition of differences is what makes them them. People attach to their personas to such a degree that if one or the other gets disrupted, the individual might fall victim to an identity crisis. Loss of job, death of a loved one, relationship changes are only a few of the great many changes that routinely disrupt people’s lives.

All is OneBut great spiritual wisdom teaches that none of these different elements are the actual us. Underneath lies something else, the true fabric of our authentic selves. This something else is precisely what the great sages claimed makes every living being the same in essence: an endless light, spark or spirit which sits underneath all those things we assume make us the psycho-spiritual-material entities we are. Not even the mind – our thoughts, perceptions, or emotions – are us. These things, too, come and go, so they cannot be our true selves by their sheer transience. The actuality of our essence is said to be eternal – existing before the current material form was born, and long after it will burn out – to either merge with the Absolute oneness (God, Tao, The Absolute, or Plotinus’ The One) or to inhabit a new life form, over and over again (samsara), until the final yoking (Yoga) of individual essence (Atman) with the absolute reality (Brahman). So the goal of Yoga, then, is to realize this individual essence through devotion (to Self-realization), duty* (dharma or purpose) and/or right discrimination (jnana or knowledge).

*Which includes action (karma)

But devotion, duty, and right discrimination are not the tools most often employed by the masses, even though the Bhagavad Gita stresses them (not enough people have taken the time to read/study the Gita). The tool most often associated with awareness of the Self is meditation. Now, let it be said that Self-realization is virtually impossible without devotion, dedication to duty and knowledge. Nonetheless, meditation is effective in bringing our consciousness in tune with our essence from a physical, mental, and conceptual standpoint. It may sound counter-intuitive to more discerning minds as to how we might tune-in to our true essence with machinery (our brains and minds) that I have already pointed out is NOT what we are in actuality; but if we consider which layers of awareness are available to us – sensory/motor, consciousness, and essence – in order of decreasing complexity and refinement, we can see how we must peel off each successive layer of attachment (or what some might call illusion –maya), from what we sense (see, hear, touch, smell, taste), feel or think…the forms of awareness we most generally use to distinguish self from other.

All is OneThrough meditation we can get underneath each successive layer of illusory self, sometimes by negating (neti-neti) – “I am not this; I am not that,” – and sometimes by simply knowing that anything transient (thoughts, feelings, sensations, perceptions, memory, and imagination) is not us. This is what the Yogis call jnana – a knowingness of Self and non-self, a right discrimination between reality and illusion. When we sit quietly, and it may take some time to develop*, we have a greater ability to dive to the depths of our being, that simple yet refined essence, which is buried beneath the increasing layers of complexity, diversity and baggage that many call the ego.

(*This is why I recommend dedicating oneself to learning and practicing means of Self-realization, uncovering one’s purpose and living by service and duty, and constantly discerning between truth and illusion through right knowledge [some call it rationality, some call it intuition, but it is both, together])

The ego makes up our individuality, and thus, our sense of separateness from others; essentially it is responsible for the many-ness that populates the world. But the oneness which universally and eternally underlies all individuals making up the many at every level of existence is what the great teachers of history have referred to when they have said we are all one. We ARE all one …in essence. Our cells make up our organs, which make up our bodies. From the many to one. Our thoughts make up our personas, which make up our personalities. From the many to one. To understand this, and to use this knowledge to detach from the individual elements that we generally mistake for ourselves, is the true goal of meditation, and ultimately of Yoga. When the individual quiets the brain noise by focusing on the usual elements of illusion, labels them, acknowledges their transient nature, and negates them as Self, they start to merge with, and are engulfed by, an indescribable experience (not quite feeling, not quite conception) of oneness (which is both nothingness and everythingness in paradoxical synchronicity).

All is OneOver time, the ability to drop beneath the layers of consciousness allows the true Self to become aware of itself in every interaction and every dynamic. The Self recognizes it is the source of every experience, every relationship, and every sense of meaning. The Self knows that bliss is born of perception and attitude, which can be changed, and not the desires (and fears) typically inflicted upon consciousness. Replacing the self-love of the individual with love of the Self – the essence common to all things – changes our experience: desires are left unpursued, fears are discarded, and pleasures and pains are recognized as inextricably linked in space and time. By attuning to the Self, life can unfold spontaneously, without the pressure of needing this or that to happen. What is required is to simply discard the notion of individuation based on the transient elements of body, mind, and emotion, and to attune to what lies beneath them, and beneath consciousness itself. The essence of our authentic selves is what is common to all people. It is a pure awareness, in pure neutrality, bathed in unconditional love and appreciation for all things. Until we can look beyond the seeming many-ness of material individuation and attune to our underlying oneness, we will forever obsess over differences which separate us in the illusion we call “being ourselves.”

Conditioned MindOne of the most often repeated truths, yet also perhaps one of the most difficult to comprehend, is that you are the creator of your life. You are your own creation. Who hasn’t heard this and nodded in agreement? Almost everybody understands it on a basic level, although there is a depth to this reality which I would love to share with you here.

Most people can connect with the fact that they are products of their choices, decisions, and actions. Not hard to understand either is how our beliefs, drives and intentions also play an intricate role; yet it does raise an age-old philosophical question of whether we truly have free will (make all our own decisions) or simply have lives that are determined (a product of circumstance). If you are unaware of this fascinating conundrum, please do yourself a favor and read a little bit about this paradox – it is well worth the time. In any case, most people have a surface understanding that we do indeed create our own lives.

However, what few tend to ponder is how we do this. How exactly do we create our lives? Well, it all emanates forth from the conditioned mind. I am not speaking in terms of a conditioned behavior here, like Pavlov’s dog, but instead the state of creating conditions – a particular state that something is perceived to be in. A conditioned mind, then, is one which differentiates, reduces, and groups together elements of a thing into similarities and differences in order to understand that thing. This is a material necessity of the human mind. Put more simply: for humans to make sense of the external world, we must be able to discern this from that, here from there, and now from then. It is how we humans walk through the world.

Conditioned MindAdditionally, we have likes and dislikes which are part of our dispositions. I like ice cream, rock music, and warm weather. I dislike seafood, the smell of body odor, and cruelty to people or animals. That’s me. You might agree on all or some of these things or disagree on all or some. But I have mine, and you have yours.

You also have drives, needs, and values, however, which underlie most of your actions – in other words, why you do what you do. If you value family, for instance, you will most certainly be drawn in awareness to family-supportive activities and events. If you value a strong social life, then you will be driven to go out, meet people, make friends, and party.

Then there are needs you have like the need to feel loved and appreciated, or to be recognized for who you are, or for what you provide to others (to name just a few). And these needs, along with your values, lead to desires, and ultimately to behaviors, including your perceptual emotions. Needs, values, desires, likes, and dislikes all work together to cause you to then pass judgement onto the outer world. You see things as good, bad, right, wrong, deserved, unjust, nice, mean, attractive, or ugly, all as interpretations from your conditioned mind. True self-realization comes from becoming aware of your mind’s conditioning (in its many varieties).

Your conditioned mind, then – through your likes and dislikes, needs and values – creates your perception; that is, how you tend to see things. Your conditioned mind, equally, influences your decisions and behaviors. It’s your conditioned mind that creates your history and the narrative story you repeatedly tell yourself and others. And depending on whether you feel mostly supported or mostly opposed will determine the theme of that narrative. We all know people who skew in one direction or the other, and some of us skew in many different directions depending on the number of sub-narratives we have. In other words, we all have the potential to become a hero or victim in different areas of our lives. And it all comes down to the conditioned mind.

Conditioned MindI hope you can see now more clearly how you are, indeed, your own creation, at least with respect to the usual ways in which we create our lives and the material world around us. But things cannot exist independently. They must always be in conjunction with their antipode. Even beingness must be opposed by nothingness, and neither can be without the other. Thus, for there to exist a conditioned mind, there must also exist an unconditioned mind.

The unconditioned mind is the transcendent state – the one in which no distinction is made between antipodes or opposites. Neither this nor that, here nor there, or now and then exist in the unconditioned mind. All appear as one to the eternal present mind. The Buddha called it enlightenment (Nirvana), the Vedanta, nirguna. It is also the cause of the rising of the Christ, and the source of all mystical experiences, so some might call it God. The unconditioned mind is also known as superconsciousness, and it is available to all human beings on the planet.

If the conditioned mind is creation, then unconditioned mind is evolution, growth and transcendence. Conditioned mind brings along with creation suffering, as part of our judgment is also to discern our dislikes, defeats, and disasters. Being denied our desires can create pain so intense as to render us into helplessness and despair. And then, of course, exist our fears. Those things we wish to never encounter – hurts, rejections, traumas, and predators – which we spend great energy to avoid throughout our lifetime, but nevertheless find us anyway. These, too, are the product of conditioned mind. Unconditioned mind, however, sees no difference between heaven or hell, pain or pleasure, justice or injustice, or any other polarity. Unconditioned mind accepts all that is exactly as it is and is thankful for it. All is one to the unconditioned mind.

Conditioned MindSo, yes, you are your own creation. And in the material world, you need the conditioned mind, in a sense to do that. But you can easily get mired in the swamp of your own creation, as not all creations become the oasis we envision. However, it is through unconscious mind that we create the Shangri-la from whatever conditioned form our life has taken. Only through the unconditioned mind is it possible to find heaven regardless of the material circumstances. Conditioned mind does the creating, and unconditioned mind takes care the appreciating. When we love our lives in all their circumstances, exactly as they are, then we can be certain that we are operating in unconditional mind.

Attuning to unconditioned mind takes training and practice. I have been teaching mindfulness, meditation, and mental balance for nearly a decade. I have had the honor of sharing wisdom with thousands of novice and seasoned meditation practitioners. You too can learn to cultivate the art (and science) of attuning to your unconditioned mind. Please contact me for one-on-one or group consultations. You are your own creation. And you are your own evolution and growth inducer. This is how we walk through the world.

When I was a kid, a commercial for Paul Masson wines aired on television nightly; it featured the great Orson Welles reciting in his baritone voice, “Some things can’t be rushed: good music and good wine… Paul Masson wines taste so good because they are made with such care. What Paul Masson himself said nearly a century ago is still true today: We will sell no wine before its time.” Now forget that Paul Masson wines were mass produced like Budweiser, and likely spent little time between production and sales. But what’s important is the message: All worthwhile things take time.

Whether we are talking about the development of a skill, like music or cooking, or the accumulation of great (and stable) wealth, time is one component which cannot be compromised. We have all heard stories of miraculous overnight successes, but what we don’t hear is the background story of thousands of hours of practice. It’s true that one can become a master of their craft within a relatively short period of time – that is, if they increase their daily practice hours to twice of what they would do otherwise. But it is time that makes a great master, and to dedicate oneself in time, one needs discipline.

Discipline is the key to all greatness. It is the foundation by which one is driven to put in the hours of practice, study, or work necessary to master one’s craft. Without discipline, it is impossible to reach mastery in less than half a century. Love of the craft helps for sure, but it is discipline that takes you beyond what the joy of performing brings to the lover of any art. Basketball, dancing, hair styling, photography, and writing all require time. Love is what brings you to the art – discipline is what shapes it.

discipline - Dream Design Los AngelesEvery example I have given thus far has been somewhat evident. Likewise, though, are those who wish to express health, wellness, style and beauty; they must also dedicate time and energy to their endeavors. Make no mistake about it: people who consistently look fashionable and attractive put in the work to achieve them. Even making it onto the cover of a fashion magazine takes years of mental preparation. Nobody is simply “lucky” in how they look. Maintaining a fit, healthy, beautiful body takes hours of sculpting. And healthy physiology requires rock-solid discipline – from overeating, from over-indulging in sugar, from drinking to excess, from smoking and doing drugs. People who practice discipline with regard to their physical bodies get rewarded with feeling good, looking good and all other athletic and sexual amenities which come along with this area of attention.

One thing that always amuses me is the young professional who thinks he will be a millionaire shortly after hanging his shingle. He has not yet learned that it will take hours of knocking on doors, meeting people, hustling, networking, sending referrals to other professionals, giving free talks, buying lunches, and cleaning toilets (yup) before he even begins to work. Of course, there are some who get lucky out the gate and encounter some success early on, but these stories are rare, and they seldom last forever. I had a colleague with whom I went to school. He had a foreign girlfriend who helped him market to students of the same national origin. As it turned out, these students had medical insurance policies from their home countries that covered their care to a tee. The trust and comfort provided by the girlfriend – a compatriot in a distant land – led to the students pouring into this doctor’s office for care. As a result, he made big money rather quickly, and this led him to believe that he had “made it” professionally too. He became arrogant to his friends, bought a house far bigger than he needed, and expanded his business too quickly. After one year, the foreign insurance company changed its covered services (probably due, in part, to my colleague’s billing practices) and shut off. My colleague ultimately lost it all. He simply couldn’t maintain the false growth. We must build up to business and financial growth in time, energy, and capital. Remember: all worthwhile things take time.

discipline - Dream Design West HollywoodParents of grown children know this. How people function as adults is directly related to the time and energy provided to them by their parents. Both mothers and fathers are extremely important to the growth and development of a child. Research shows this; and although children certainly adapt to the absence of one parent, there is no doubt that children do enormously better when both parents are present in body, mind, and spirit. In other words, parents need to be physically present with their children, regularly; they must give the children undivided attention more often than not, and they must show love and appreciation for the blessed honor to do so. Our children require our time and energy, and every parent can attest that along with juggling career and business, physical health, hobbies, and intellectual pursuits, it takes unshakable discipline to give our children the best of us every day. But that is what is required.

discipline - Dream Design West HollywoodFinally, and to me the most important, is the time and energy necessary for spiritual self-development. All other endeavors emanate from this essence of our true selves. Spiritual development is what some call “coming to know the self,” and it is the highest effort in which one can engage. A great challenge, however, is that the path often appears as long and arduous, and it can most certainly be. Very likely, for the average person, spiritual development takes the greatest hours of attention, and to move the shortest distance; yet the rewards are also the biggest. Nothing can be as effectively appreciated as through the lens of the soul, what we might call our authentic self. Hundred of thousands of people try meditation (or prayer, or japa, or psychedelics) and never attain what they aspire to; NOT because it is ineffective, but because they have not yet ripened the mind to allow their spirit to flow. I understand this is an esoteric concept, but to know you have to do…and this requires practice. The yogis liken the mind to unripened fruit. When fruit is in this state, it is not pleasant to eat – it will remain on the tree, hard, sour, and undeveloped. Only when the fruit becomes mature, ripened, will it then fall from the tree and open itself to the sweetness that life has to offer. Your mind, like fruit, will not ripen until its time. This time comes over the course of long, arduous spiritual work.

discipline - Dream Design Beverly HillsAll worthwhile things take time. What you would love to achieve in life will not happen overnight – and you don’t want it to. We all want a long biography, filled with experience, pleasure, pain, and love. This is what we call living. Who you would love to be, how you go about achieving it, as well as what you get to enjoy along the way, all come down to the attention you put into your art(s). But never forget, the greatest aspiration is of self-knowledge or spiritual development. Like fine wine, you will fully appreciate your divine essence when you ripen mentally and spiritually in love and gratitude. I can almost hear it rolling off Mr. Welles tongue: “No mind will align with the divine until its time.” And so it is.

Los Angeles ChiropracticBreath is life. Without breath, life will not carry on for long. But somehow, I think, most people take it for granted. Breathing is autonomic – you do not have to think about it for it to happen. It just does. Every yogi is aware that the breath will flow unimpeded regardless of the attention or inattention given to it; yet the great Yogananda warned that every novice meditator would sooner or later interrupt their meditation for fear that their slowed breathing was their body forgetting to do so. Breath in life, however, will never stop on its own; it is the first thing we do upon entering the world (gasp in the first breath) and the very last thing we do before passing on to the next (exhale the last breath).

The breath is so important to life that yogis conceptualized it as the prime mover of the life force energy throughout the body – what they call prana. And both yogic teachers and modern science understand the breath’s intimacy to our consciousness states. When operating in the autopilot state of mindlessness, especially while under heavy stress, the breathing can often be shallow, rapid, and erratic. During states of deep sleep or meditation, however, the breath can slow to a crawl. Listening to a regular pranayama practitioner breathe might conjure up images of waves crashing on the shore – long, deep, and rhythmic sounds of the ebb and flow of nature.

 

Breathing reflects consciousness and we can affect or influence consciousness by changing our breath…breath and consciousness are just the flip sides of the same coin. ~ Richard Rosen

 

Beverly Hills Chiropractor

The function of the breath is to bring in oxygen needed for energy production, and to remove CO2, the byproduct of cellular respiration. The breath thus acts as cyclic transporter of gasses necessary for both human and vegetative life on the planet. Breath is life in every sense of the word.

With this in mind, I believe, it is of utmost importance to focus on the breath in as many of your activities as possible. Yes, of course, as a means of entering deep states of meditation, focusing on the breath is without rival. I have been teaching this vital and fundamental element of meditation weekly for eight years and, always, I emphasize the importance of focusing on the breath. It is this cycle of breath – the inspiration of life, and the expiration of death, with the spaces in between them – that allows for the deepest submergence into the great meditative state of dhyana, and ultimately, samadhi.

I focus intently on my breath whenever I must sit for something unnerving or potentially painful, like a medical or dental procedure. Because of my commitment to bringing solitary focus to my breath and ultimately release all focus as I let my consciousness dive deeply into the meditative state, I have been able to slow my breath to such a degree that dentists, doctors and nurses frequently check in with me to make sure I am still alive. One nurse just prior to my last colonoscopy told me I was not “breathing enough,” to which I jovially disclosed that I am a regular meditator and purposefully controlling my breath. The anesthesiologist who was monitoring my breathing caught the conversation and essentially told the nurse to put a lid on it – he could see my respiratory rate was normal.

Breath control has also helped me maintain my poise under stressful situations, like while in a court of law, or when under the control of some power-tripping authority (DMV employee, police officer, and so on). Deep breathing really does help calm the nerves and keep one poised under stressful situations. That alone is worth practicing breath control.

Los Angeles ChiropracticBut perhaps my favorite time to focus on the breath is during exercise. Anybody who works out regularly knows how important breath control is, but I must stress that the breath it truly is the foundation of all power and endurance in sports and fitness. Take professional fighting for example: I always know which fighter is going down first…it’s usually the one who is breathing the heaviest. When an athlete loses breath control, he loses power, and ultimately, he’ll lose the contest.

When I do cardiovascular exercise – like riding a bike – I always attempt to maintain the most deep, rhythmic breathing possible. Not only does it guarantee I will finish my workout (reach my numbers), but it also allows me to pace myself, and kick on the power where I need it. When you find yourself tiring in your workout, focus on your breath – slow it down, build a rhythm – and watch your energy go up and your endurance expand. When lifting weights, focus more on the breath than on the contraction and, believe me, you will see your strength explode by controlling your breathing.

Finally, take time every week to practice diaphragmatic breathing. If you do not know how to do this powerful breathing exercise, please look here for instruction. You may not believe me when I say that people forget how to breath properly, neurologically, and it is of utmost importance to practice in the same way you would practice focused awareness (mindfulness) and meditation. I have seen over a twenty-two-year span of natural bodywork and healthcare how quickly people lose their ability to breath diaphragmatically. It is like working out – use it or lose it – to be totally cliché. But take my assurances: you will increase your power, physically and magnetically, if you take the time to work on controlled breathing.

West Hollywood ChiropracticBreath is life, indeed. You can let it happen automatically without ever thinking about it, and your body-mind will certainly do its job dutifully. Or, instead, if you apply your mind and actions to your breathing consciously, you will become a psychic and energetic powerhouse. You will look vibrant and healthy from the maximized oxygenation of your body. You will become metabolically efficient by conditioning your gas transport and exchange system. Your mind will be clear and sharp, and you will be much quicker to drop into deep, calm, poised states of quiet meditation. Use your gift of breath to your advantage. The yogis are conceptually right with their image of life force energy control of the breath. Expand your life force for your greatest health and vibrancy through the gift of breathing.

Earth's spheresIn the last post, I discussed a few benefits that come from regular meditation practice. One benefit which warrants its own piece is that meditation makes the mind ripe for inspiration. To understand this phenomenon, I will have to introduce a concept, one that is similar to the notions of God, soul, or Higher Mind (next post). Having no way to prove the existence of any of the above, and also having no way to falsify them, these abstract ideas are unprovable and fall into the realm of faith. However, I would like to point out that, despite there being no rigorous way to prove or disprove the forthcoming concept to others, you can gain experiential proof for yourself by doing what the Buddha always encouraged of his students; he’d say, “Ehipassiko,” or come see for yourself.

To understand what I am about to share, you must first understand the spheres which surround the earth. Although Earth has seventeen known spheres, I will only touch upon five: the geosphere, lithosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, and atmosphere. A sphere is a three-dimensional shape equivalent to the two-dimensional circle, of which every point on its surface is equidistant to its center. The Earth itself is a sphere. One may think of Earth’s spheres, then, as smaller to larger orbs in, on, and surrounding the globe. The first and smallest is the geosphere, which occupies the space within the Earth’s core. It is the molten rock deep inside the Earth’s surface, magma as it is called, and also the mantle and plasticky-layer known as the asthenosphere. The geosphere is what makes up the inner core of the planet.

Next sphere layers outward start with the lithosphere, which is the rocky crust of land on the surface of the Earth. Litho- means “rock,” and thus the lithosphere is the mountains, volcanoes, and other rocky surfaces of the planet. Along with the lithosphere, the hydrosphere makes up the surface of the Earth. As its name implies, hydro- means “water,” so the hydrosphere is the Earth’s bodies of water. The biosphere is all the living things on the planet, including humans, animals, plants, fungi, bacteria, and viruses. And then there is the atmosphere, which surrounds the Earth in a sphere just larger than the planet itself. The atmosphere contains the gasses needed by living things to breathe and carry out photosynthesis; it maintains pressure sufficient for the presence of liquid water, and it also provides protection from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays.

Each of these spheres contributes to Earth’s many functions, or to the ecosystems residing on the planet. Another sphere, and the one which I wish to introduce as the abstract, unprovable concept, was postulated by two thinkers at approximately the same time (and through mutual influence on one another). It is called the noosphere. This sphere is the hypothesized sphere of information, named after the Greek nous-, which means “mind” or “intellect.” The two founding conceptulizers of this evolutionary biospheric development are French philosopher and Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and biogeochemist Vladimir Vernadsky. I will not discuss their complete conceptualization of the noosphere. For that, I recommend further reading, specifically Teilhard de Chardin’s The Phenomenon of Man (Harper Perennial Modern Thought). I merely wish to discuss how you can use the concept of the noosphere to understand from where inspiration may come, and how you might be able to tap into this potentially ever-present source of information.

I think it is most useful to think of the noosphere as a “cloud,” very much like the information cloud in which we store our digital data. The noosphere is all the information that has ever existed or will ever exist. So unlike the internet cloud, which is the information humans have access to currently, the noosphere contains all that, along with all past unknown or lost information, and all future information as well. According to this concept, individuals do not create information with their neurology, but instead tap into the cloud of information that is the noosphere, and as such download that information as a stream of ideas and inspirations. Think about it—all mathematics, all music, all art, and all technological innovation come from the noosphere, where each individual (monad) taps into and downloads the information. We all do it. Every idea you have ever had comes from this sphere of information.

Clear MindNow how do some ideas lead to innovation that ends up influencing humanity for years, generations, and even millennia?  Why do some people get big ideas while others seem to think diminutively? The answer is more complex than I can do justice in this one article, but the simple explanation is that some people are proficient at clearing their minds of the relentless mind-chatter I have referred to in a previous article on mindlessness. As a result, they clear the receiver, and thus enhance the transmission channels from the noosphere. Furthermore, while almost everyone gets great, inspirational ideas from time to time, not everyone acts on them, which a big mistake in my opinion. A discriminating mind is obviously needed to determine which ideas should be acted on and which shouldn’t, but it seems more common than not for the average person to disqualify their inspirational ideas as crazy, undoable, or unworthy for whatever reason people do. Again, as a result of my understanding of the noosphere, I think it is a mistake to discount your downloaded inspirations.

While meditation is not the only practice which can increase your transmissions from the noosphere, it is a simple tool which you can utilize immediately. There is a right and wrong way to meditate, as simple as it may sound, and I find many come to my courses without having had the proper instruction on technique and philosophy behind an effective meditation practice. Both elements are necessary as philosophy without technique is empty, and technique without philosophy is blind. So my recommendation is to learn both. If you would love to learn the hows and whys of meditation, as well as other techniques which will strengthen your ability to both tap into and increase the transmission from the noosphere, please contact me. Every great idea has been downloaded from the noosphere; yours are no less great, you simply need to act on them. Tap in, download and act—it really is that simple. Contact me and I can help you with each.

Meditation Los AngelesWhat is meditation? Is it what we speak of when discussing mindfulness? In short, no – meditation is tool, while mindfulness is a state of mind. A good reminder from a previous article is that we spend the bulk of our waking time on auto-pilot. This habitual activity-mode allows us to think while we drive, talk on the phone while typing, or discuss vacation plans while having sex. It is a state of mind; one which we specifically differentiate from being laser-sharp focused – or mindful.

Meditation, on the other hand, is a practice. Without a doubt, regular meditation strengthens focus, and thus it strengthens one’s ability to enter mindfulness, but it is purely a tool, one that needs to be practiced regularly and earnestly to become effective. Greater mindfulness is a consequence of consistent meditation. But meditation is not the only path to mindfulness, it just happens to be an extremely effective one. For sure, the Bhagavad Gita discusses meditation as a form of yoga, and it is a path to awareness, but by no means is it solely so: in fact, greater mindfulness is merely one consequence of many for the meditator. Meditation can be used to come to know the Self, to connect with the Source (or Absolute in Vedantic philosophy), and ultimately to unionize with the Source (samadhi). It achieves these aspirations by dissolving the boundary between self and other, between the one and many, and between sensory experience and reality.

To practice meditation is to attempt to go to the “other” side of thoughts: to allow what comes to come and what goes to go. Meditation is the start to separating the Self (true nature) from the self (body, mind, and sense of individuality). By repeatedly practicing awareness and focus, the proper conditions are beings set for release of self to Self. This state of being is called samadhi and is known to many spiritual disciplines. Because reaching this state is purely experiential, you cannot fully understand it with words alone. In fact, this is true for every stage along the way to samadhi as well, such that meditation leads to an inner unfoldment, a progression, where each layer spread out brings one closer to one’s true Self (not the self of the physical body and mind).

Mind Dissolves Meditation, by virtue of this inner unfoldment, leads to a greater receptivity to reality. As awareness expands, illusions become shattered and nightmares neutralize as a greater sense of oneness and orderliness flood the consciousness. Purpose becomes clearer, problems unite with solutions, and visions sharpen; meditation opens channels to understanding and inspiration.

Even the physical body changes morphologically through regular meditation. Studies show that meditation is associated with changes in gray matter concentration in brain regions involved in learning and memory, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking. While taking on meditation to attain physical or intellectual prowess might be mundane, these are a few interesting side-effects regular meditation brings.

Understanding that meditation is a tool is imperative, because it is easy for some to mistake the tool for the goal, which can lead to a discontinuation of practice for sheer lack of interest or significance to the practitioner. It can also lead to a false sense of achievement and thus stagnation in others. Understanding that meditation is simply a tool to achieve varying levels of awareness helps the practitioner stay on track and open to each layer of Self as it unfolds. It also allows the practitioner to remain unattached to the tool, because Self-realization can and will occur outside of meditation as well. Attaching to the tool can prevent the practitioner from reaching deeper levels of awareness by holding onto the illusion that the tool is necessary. It isn’t. It’s just a tool.

Deep sleep meditation coursesThat tool is used ultimately to get you to different states of consciousness. Recall that mindlessness, our typical waking state, is the state of unconscious consciousness: minimally aware of moment-to-moment details. And mindfulness is conscious consciousness: intense awareness of moment-to-moment details. Samadhi, then, that state of oneness to which we aspire through meditation, is an entirely different state altogether: we can call it a state of conscious unconsciousness. This is a strange concept to anybody hearing it for the first time…conscious unconsciousness? Appreciating this term is best done by associating it with something we do every night: deep sleep. The sleep cycle is split into four stages: light sleep, moderate sleep, deep sleep, and REM sleep. Deep sleep is about twenty five percent of each sleep cycle and what we call restorative sleep. When a person is in deep sleep they are unaware of everything: their body, their mind, and their individuality. They are conscious in the general sense that they are not dead, but they are dead to the world for the period they are in that state. An even better example is the person who is put under anesthesia, like I was in 2006 to have my appendix removed. Just before the operation the anesthesiologist told me, “This is going to be your cocktail for the night, Mr. Campos.” And the next thing I knew it was, “…Mr. Campos, Mr. Campos, wake up, you’re done.” And that was that, time passed but to me it was instantaneous. I was in a state of unconsciousness, and I was unconscious to it.  We go there every night in deep sleep. Every person has had the experience of waking up and thinking, “Where am I, how did I get here?” That’s unconscious unconsciousness. Samadhi is being in a deep-sleep-like state, yet being aware and conscious throughout. Weird, huh? But that’s what it is, conscious unconsciousness: a truly experiential phenomenon. Words cannot describe.

The main point is that meditation is a tool to get you to a state – the state of conscious unconsciousness. Once you are there the goal changes, but I will leave that for another article. Most important for you, the practitioner, the aspirant, is the revelation along the way. This unfoldment of Self is what changes life for good.

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.

simon-migaj-Yui5vfKHuzs-unsplash (Copy)Mindfulness 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 dreamdesign.campos@gmail.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.