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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 December 9, 2019

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

Everyone experiences mental stress at one time or another. Maybe you’re starting a new career, job, or business, or you feel incredibly overwhelmed between work, parenting, and your love life (or a lack of it). It could even be that you simply feel that you have way too much to do and not enough time to do it,  plus, on top of everything, nothing seems to be going the way it should!

Yup, we all experience mental stress from time-to-time, and that’s okay as long as you have the tools, techniques and knowledge that allow you to fully relieve it once it comes.

Here are 5 tips for relieving mental stress when it comes so you can function at your best while feeling good (and doing well) in work, love, or life:

1. Get Rationally Optimistic

Mental stress starts with your perception of your experiences. For instance, most people get stressed out when they perceive their reality as “being wrong” in some way. Essentially, they have a set idea of how things “should be” at any given moment, and when reality ends up being different (not even necessarily bad), they get stressed.

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This process is simply a result of perception and can be easily “fixed” by recognizing that although life might not always be going as YOU think it should, it’s still going as it should—for your own benefit.

In fact, once you fully recognize that everything in your life ultimately happens for your own growth, progress, and development—so you can achieve your goals and dreams—your perception works in your favor. You soon process and respond to your experience of life differently, for your advantage. That’s the essence of becoming “rationally optimistic.”

The result: no more mental stress.

2. Unplug

Just like you might need to unplug your computer when it starts acting all crazy, you should also “unplug” your mind.

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How on earth do you unplug your mind? Simple: just meditate.

It isn’t nearly difficult or complicated as some people think, so, if you don’t already meditate, give it a try. Whether you meditate for 5 minutes, 30 minutes, or 2 hours, this is a surefire way to reduce mental stress.

Meditation has been scientifically proven to relax your body (resulting in less mental stress), while also reducing anxiety and high blood pressure.

3. Easy on the Caffeine

Yes, we know, we know—everyone loves a nice java buzz, and that’s okay, but there’s a fine line between a small caffeine pick-me-up and a racing heart and mind that throws you into a frenzy of mental stress.

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Try giving up caffeine for a while and see how you feel. And, if that’s completely out of the question for you, at least try to minimize it. You might find that lots of your mental stress mysteriously “disappears” as your caffeine intake goes down.

4. Attack Mental Stress Via the Back Door

That’s right: your body and mind are part of the whole being, and are constantly influencing and affecting each other. If you’re experiencing a lot of mental stress, try to reduce it by calming your body down—a calm body equals a calmer mind.

How do you calm your body down and reduce physical stress? A  great way to reduce physical stress (thereby reducing mental stress) is to take natural supplements that are proven to reduce stress and anxiety while lifting your mood. Three good ones to look into are kava-kava, St John’s wort, and rhodiola rosea:

  • Kava-kava is a natural plant known to have mild sedative properties, and you should be able to find it at your natural health food store or vitamin store. It’s available in capsules or liquid extract form.
  • St John’s wort is a natural flower used to treat depression. Again, it’s found at your local health store in capsules or liquid. Because it uplifts mood (enabling you to see the brighter side of all experiences) it helps relieve mental stress as well.
  • Rhodiola rosea is a natural plant shown to reduce stress and uplift mood, and Russian athletes have been using it forever. Like the other two supplements mentioned, rhodiola rosea can be found at your natural health store in capsule or liquid form.

While these supplements are all natural and can be very helpful for most people, always check with your health care provider first as they can cause side-effects depending on your current health situation etc.

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5. Good Old-Fashioned Exercise

This tip has been around forever because it works. Nothing relieves mental stress like running, kickboxing—you name it. Anything super-physical will wipe out most of your mental stresses once the exercise endorphins (happy chemicals) are released into your brain.

The result: mental stress will be gone!

So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or just plain stressed, try using some of the above tips. You can even print this out or save it to refer to regularly.

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Featured photo credit: Radu Florin via unsplash.com

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