Methods for Enhancing Meditation

busy-mind-1Make a place to sit down. Sit down. Be quiet. —Wendell Berry

This month, I'm working with a small group of people who are practicing this advice from poet Wendell Berry. It's not as easy as you think it should be. But we are learning, from so many different arenas, how very, very important it is for us to cultivate the practice of quieting the mind. In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali says the purpose of yoga is to calm the fluctuations of the mind. We practice asana (yoga postures) as one way of doing that. We learn breathing techniques, which help us focus attention and lead to reducing out-of-control thinking. We also practice seated meditation, which brings presence and peace into our lives.

The benefits of meditative practices like these (and others) have been extolled in research and in popular literature, on Dr. Oz and Oprah, and now, even public schools educators are coming to recognize the benefits of teaching students how to control their thinking, and showing them they do no have to live at the effect of all the thoughts and feelings that bombard them on a regular basis.

Almost everything seems to get better if we meditate. Here is a short list of the benefits scientific studies are reporting:

- greater immune function - improved cognitive and physiological states - better mood and health - reduced anxiety - emotional resilience - ability to avoid burn out - access to compassion - epigenetic changes - a steadier heart (heart/brain coherence) - greater ease in letting go of struggles - a new set of choices for the heart - deeper presence and awareness - alignment with innate dignity and wisdom - fertile ground for big ideas - access to creativity, wisdom, intellect, and insight

At LifeArt Studio, we encourage all of our clients to build some sort of reflective practice into their daily foundational practices. We embrace what the poet Adrienne Rich says:

The impulse to create begins in a tunnel of silence.

So at a very basic level, if you want to improve your capacity to be creative, building silence and reflection into your day is simply one of the very best things you can do for your art, and for your artful life.

But it's not easy given the level of noise, distraction, and stimulation we endure virtually every waking minute. The lures of the world are myriad.

If you find yourself caught in the common dilemma of wanting to practice silence, meditation, or self-reflection, but feel the responsibilities of life gobbling up your time and energy, you might be interested in a new course we're offering at LifeArt Studio. It's called Transformative Mindfulness Practices to Initiate Change. Participants are learning some technologies that help us observe, monitor, regulate, and accelerate practices that quiet the mind and reduce reactive behaviors.

In the first session we examined simple guided meditations, which are readily and inexpensively available online. Session two focused on Holosync, a binaural sound wave technology that changes brain waves from alpha to beta or theta frequency. In session three, we delved into the research and practice of the HeartMath Institute which has developed the EmWave monitor for bringing heart and brain waves into coherence to induce a state of calm, relaxation, and both physiological and emotional coherence.

These technologies are easy to use and pleasant to experience, and induce changes in the practitioner much more quickly than conventional sitting meditation. Bill Harris, creator of Holosync, says that meditating for one hour using the Holosync sound practices is the equivalent of 8 hours of traditional seated meditation.

The purpose of this class is not to advocate meditating quicker, better, easier for bigger results. (Although that is exactly what Dave Aspry says his 40 Years of Zen does for his clients.) Most meditation teachers would never eschew the good old-fashioned way of sitting down and being quiet. French philosopher Blaise Pascal said,

All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.

I think he may be correct.

But our goal in this course is to assist participants in finding the modifications to the practice that will motivate them to come to the practice more often, and as a result, feel the effects of their practice sooner.

Transformative Mindfulness Practices to Initiate Change.

In June, we move into the second half of the course, and we'll examine three other techniques mindfulness practices. And if you would like to experiment with ways to deepen (or start) a contemplative practice, we invite you to join us.

1) On June 3, 4:30-6:30 p.m., I will be introducing the class to the Sedona Method, a release technique that helps practitioners drop feelings or assumptions that are causing pain, distress, disappointment, confusion, or obstacles. The Sedona Method is a simple questioning processing that disarms tightly held false assumptions about ourselves.

2) On June 8, 6:30-8:30 p.m., Marylou Gantner will give us an introduction to progressive relaxation and biofeedback.

If you are relaxed, you can’t be anxious and tense. And the good news is that the relaxation response is wired into our nervous system.  Using biofeedback and guided directives, Marylou shows clients how to discover and release body tension patterns in a daily 30-minute practice. This practice gradually frees up energy for more direct and creative experiences. She will explain how we use as much as 60% of our potential energy in unnecessary tensions.

Marylou is a Scientific Relaxation Specialist with many years in private practice. She studied with and was certified by world-renowned psychiatrist Joseph Wolpe, M.D. at Temple University School of Medicine, Behavior Therapy Unit in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

3) On June 15, 6:30-8:30 p.m., Heidi Behr will introduce the class to Emotional Freedom Technique, also called tapping. It is a form of energy psychology that has the capacity to relieve physical, emotional, and mental pain and stress as well as transform negative belief systems and subconscious programming to bring health, wealth, happiness, peace and freedom.

Heidi is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker & Certified Addiction Professional, providing counseling for over 27 years. She specializes in treating clients who have anxiety, trauma/PTSD, and she has special training in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy.

We invite you to participate in any or all of these last three sessions if you would like to explore some ways to manage your mind, focus your energy, and enjoy your life more fully. The fee to attend is $25 for one session, $60 for all three sessions. To reserve your seat you can contact me at lezlielaws.com.