What is meditation? First, let me clarify the type of meditation that I introduced in the segment of the show, entitled: “Tools of Change”. I consider attention to breath, to the sensations of the body, the slowing down the breath to a 6 second inhale and exhale, a form of meditation. This specific type of breath work/meditation was first introduced to me when I read a book titled “How to Use Herbs, Nutrients, and Yoga in Mental Health Care”. This book refers to the 6 second inhale /exhale as ‘coherent breath’. I began to practice this type of meditation as a means to decrease my anxiety and manage my perceived and unperceived physiological stressors. What I began to observe was profound for me. I began to have less panic attacks. I began to notice how my thoughts were leading to my anxiety. I began to implement meditation immediately whenever I felt I needed to ‘let go’ of thoughts but could not do so with mere ‘will’. Then I began to have more energy. I began to remain more engaged in conversation without getting distracted, my memory began to improve, my ability to vocalize became more assertive, I began to be less nervous and distracted in work environments, performance events, my physical coordination improved and my expressive language skills changed. I had previously experienced severe and often limiting anxiety - therefore, the effects of meditation for me were profound. In summary, for the purposes of clarifying the meditation utilized in the "Tools of Change" segment at the end of the show, the form of meditation utilized is coherent breathing.
What I began to learn from my research was that several different forms of meditation have been studied and have been found to help with a multitude of things besides anxiety, depression and stress. Some studies are suggesting consistent meditation helps improve sleep, immune system responses, working memory and skilled learning. Some studies are stating meditation lowers inflammation thus decreasing arteriosclerosis, which can be correlated to heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Recently, I completed a LifeForce Yoga Practitioner - 1 course. One of the tools I took home from this course is an awareness that if I can accurately access my emotion, my mood and my body’s present state then by performing certain breath techniques I can successfully manipulate my nervous system to ‘balance’ out my emotion and/or mood. This is a more complex level of meditation but will be a topic of discussion in the future. For the purposes of this discussion, my intention is to mention how powerful breath work and meditation can be if it is performed mindfully and intelligently.
I decided that even if you are someone who never stresses - meditation can still benefit you. Meditation can benefit EVERYONE - leading to helping the body and brain evolve towards an optimal performance level. What I love most about Meditation is that it is FREE!!! It is free and can lead to even more freedom! Is meditation the answer to the world’s problems? It is just one tool that if implemented, can help all of us to embrace a higher quality of life. Is this debatable? Of course. Everything is and I encourage everyone to always question everything. This is just a tool to research for yourself - you decide if it is helpful for you or not. I am just relating my own personal journey and experience utilizing Meditation. I hope that with sharing my story I can provide resources for you to further your own personal research and perhaps this research can lead you to something that helps you to create the change you seek. This change can come from many forms of meditation, such as transcendental, compassion, mindfulness, breath work and more depending on the environment you practice within.
Note that I do give credibility to the discussion that meditation is hard to define and that studies are inconclusive partially due to the many different forms of meditation. My reply to this is that the reason there is so much diversity and inconclusiveness is because human beings are diverse! Meditation and breath work has been profound for me because of me! So, if I were to undergo an MRI pre/post meditation, because of my already over stimulated limbic system I would show benefit from meditation and breath work as a means to calm that limbic system. If you do not have an overstimulated limbic system then this form of meditation may not be what you need. If you are a person who is not in touch with your inner self, lack compassion, or are not comfortable with silence then there are forms of meditation for this. Meditation and the study of meditation can perhaps lead you, lead me, lead us as a community to get to know ourselves more, our needs more, potentially cutting down on the confusion and overwhelming feeling of having to wade through all the discrepancies and different opinions about what is good for us and may not be helpful for us at this time in our lives but maybe will be better utilized in the future. My point is that we are always changing. Meditation has helped me by being a real tool that has enabled me to learn to discern when it is the appropriate time to implement it and when it is not. It has enabled me to make logical, conscientious choices, not impulsive decisions. Do your own research, experiment and make decisions, but first know yourself. This cuts down on the stress from everything always changing!
Change is inevitable. Suffering can be less when we realize we have choices based more on what we know about ourselves, not just what others are telling us is healthy. In my belief, meditation is a powerful tool to enable the higher learning centers of the brain to function optimally, while at the same time calming the limbic system, which functionally translates into the ability of humans to observe events calmly, process what is occurring, then objectively act as opposed to reacting. The process of training the brain to respond in this manner on conscious command parallels the training of getting to know our true selves.
“The Healing Power of the Breath” Richard P. Brown, MD & Patricia L. Gerbarg, MD
“Yoga for Depression” Amy Weintraub
“How to Use Herbs, Nutrients, and Yoga in Mental Health Care” Richard P. Brown, MD, Patricia L. Gerbarg, MD, & Philip R. Muskin