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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 October 16, 2018

What Your Fear of Being Alone Is Really About and How to Get over It

What Your Fear of Being Alone Is Really About and How to Get over It

Are you afraid of being alone?  Do you worry about your physical safety or do you fear loneliness? These are strong negative feelings that can impact your health.

One study found that when older people are socially isolated, there is an increased risk of an earlier death,[1] by as much as 26%.

If you experience loneliness and are worried about your fear of being alone, study these 6 ways to help you find your comfort zone.

But first, the good news!

How many times have you said to yourself, ‘I just can’t wait to be alone’? This might be after a day’s work, an argument with your partner or after a noisy dinner with friends. You need time to be yourself, gather your thoughts, relish the silence and just totally chill out. These are precious moments and are very important for your own peace of mind and mental refreshment.

But for many people, this feeling is not often present and loneliness takes over. As Joss Whedon once said,

‘Loneliness is about the scariest thing out there’.

Read on and discover how you can exploit being alone to your own advantage and how you can defeat loneliness.

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1. Embrace loneliness

When you are alone, it is important to embrace it and enjoy it to the full.

Wallow in the feeling that you do not have to be accountable for anything you do. Pursue your interests and hobbies. Take up new ones. Learn new skills. Lie on the couch. Leave the kitchen in a mess. The list can go on and on, but finding the right balance is crucial.

There will be times when being on your own is perfect, but then there will be a creeping feeling that you should not be so isolated.

When you start to enjoy being alone, these 10 amazing things will happen.

Once you start feeling loneliness, then it is time to take action.

2. Facebook is not the answer

Have you noticed how people seek virtual contacts instead of a live, face-to-face interaction? It is true that social networking can provide an initial contact, but the chances of that becoming a real life personal contact is pretty slim.

Being wrapped up in a cloud of sharing, liking and commenting (and insulting!) can only increase loneliness.

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When you really want company, no one on Facebook will phone you to invite you out.

3. Stop tolerating unhappy relationships

It is a cruel fact of life that people are so scared of loneliness that they often opt into a relationship with the wrong person.

There is enormous pressure from peers, family and society in general to get married or to be in a stable, long-term relationship. When this happens, people start making wrong decisions, such as:

  • hanging out with toxic company such as dishonest or untrustworthy people;
  • getting involved with unsuitable partners because of the fear of being alone or lonesome;
  • accepting inappropriate behavior just because of loneliness;
  • seeking a temporary remedy instead of making a long-term decision.

The main problem is that you need to pause, reflect and get advice. Recognize that your fear of being alone is taking over. A rash decision now could lead to endless unhappiness.

4. Go out and meet people

It was the poet John Donne (1572 – 1631) who wrote:

‘No man is an island, entire of itself, every man is a piece of the continent’.

Human contact is essential to surviving in this world. Instead of wallowing in boredom and sadness, you need to get out as much as possible and seek contacts.

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Being a member of a group, however tenuous, is a great way. So when you are in the gym, at church or simply at a club meeting, exploit these contacts to enlarge your social circle.

There is no point in staying at home all the time. You will not meet any new people there!

Social contacts are rather like delicate plants. You have to look after them. That means telephoning, using Skype and being there when needed.

Take a look at this guide on How to Meet New People and Make Friends with The Best.

5. Reach out to help someone in need

A burden shared is a burden halved.

Dag Hammarskjold was keenly aware of this fact when he said:

‘What makes loneliness an anguish is not that I have no one to share my burden but this: I have only my own burden to bear’.

Simply put, it is a two-way street. Helping others actually helps yourself, here’s why.

Reach out to help and people will be there when you need them.

6. Be grateful and count your blessings

Study after study shows that if people show gratitude, they will reap a bountiful harvest. These include a stronger immune system, better health, more positive energy and most important of all, feeling less lonely and isolated.

If you do not believe me, watch the video below, ‘What good is gratitude?’  Now here is the path to hope and happiness:

Featured photo credit: Anthony Tran via unsplash.com

Reference

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