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The Purpose Of Meditation — It’s Not What You Think

The Purpose Of Meditation — It’s Not What You Think

Nico is the son of a friend of mine. We’ve only recently gotten acquainted, but I find his background fascinating.

We sit with our coffees in a garden restaurant in central Mexico. We see the volcanically formed mountains with their strange shapes in the distance. Nico and I discuss various healing modalities, and then we focus on meditation.

As I sip the foam off my cappuccino, I ask Nico what he’s been up to. He tells me he graduated with a dual major in psychology and neurobiology. Our discussion about meditation, from his dual major background, takes an unusual turn.

The History of Meditation

Riding the Ox Home: A History of Meditation from Shamanism to Science, by Willard Johnson, describes hunting as the first meditation. When humans acquired fire, they could sit by it. It provided warmth and protection from predators. This was the beginning of sitting meditation.

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Shamans later discovered soma. Ingesting this substance provided visions — an altered state and a connection with the Infinite.

The archeological record shows that meditation goes back to at least 3000 BCE. Patanjali recorded yoga and meditation techniques around 200 ACE. This practice took the place of soma, allowing the meditator more control.

Patanjali lists three requirements for success in meditation:

  1. time
  2. persistence
  3. devotion

Mediation As Healing

There’s a lot of science-based evidence on the healing qualities of meditation.

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Clinical studies show that meditation helps treat disorders like depression, anxiety, addictions, and chronic pain. Dr. Judson Brewer of the Yale School of Medicine used an fMRI brain imaging study to identify functional changes in the brains of experienced meditators. He demonstrated the impact of meditation on brain function and connectivity.

The meditative state brain may become a normal resting function with continued meditation practice.

Experienced meditators can turn off areas of the brain. These are associated with daydreaming and psychiatric disorders such as autism and schizophrenia. It’s been suggested meditation decreases daydreaming and egoistic thinking.

The Individual Meditator

The author shows the history of meditation duplicates the life history of individual meditators. Many people lead frantic lives, hunting for happiness, or working hard just to survive. They may use psychedelics to gain access to ecstatic states. When they begin with sitting meditation, this usually replaces the use of drugs.

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Riding the Ox Home is a series of picture koans that portray the history of meditation. In the first image, the master is chasing his ox. The last image depicts the master in meditation while riding the ox. The ox knows the way home. The images show the meditator controlling his body and his passions to finally arrive at Nirvana.

The Purpose of Meditation

Nico tells me that when Western culture adopted meditation, they got it wrong. In the East, meditation was not centered on healing. Its purpose was to experience the emptiness of the Infinite — the ground of being.

What science discovered about meditation and its healing qualities is true, though this was not its original intent.

Boomeritis by Ken Wilbur describes the different levels of consciousness. It’s an informational novel. He explains how our focus has been on “me” or “I”, neglecting to honor our past as part of who we are. He says that until we can do that, we cannot progress to the next higher level of consciousness.

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My feeling is that the same is happening with meditation. We are so caught up in what we can get out of meditation that we do not consider its founders or foundation. This missing part is the devotional aspect mentioned earlier as one of the three keys to successful meditation.

Meditation can be a trap, isolating us in our ivory towers while we sit. Or it can be a substitute for taking action in the world. Balance is important.

Meditation is experiencing the basic form of reality. All the benefits follow from that.

Featured photo credit: Pray/Belgianchocolate via imcreator.com

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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