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Archive for the ‘Meditation’ Category

Making Peace With Grief

Happy Circle is open and free for everyone. As we explore the nature of grief, can we make peace with an emotion that is such a potent part of existence?

Happy Circle Meditation v2-page-001

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The relaxation response triggered by yoga and meditation counters the stress response. When the mind-body has repeated experiences of stress, the stress response triggers faster as a survival mechanism and the stress hormones, over time, cause health problems. Stress may contribute to, or exacerbate, some of these familiar health problems:

anxiety * arthritis * constipation * depression * diabetes * headaches * heart problems * heartburn * infectious diseases such as colds and herpes * insomnia * irritable bowel syndrome * backaches, joint aches, abdominal pain * PMS * ulcers

This is now widely accepted knowledge as I am learning in the Mind-Body Medicine: The New Science of Optimal Health by Professor Jason M. Satterfield Ph.D (Great Courses from The Teaching Company).  The stress response is well-explained in the following excerpt from:

Now and Zen: How mindfulness can change your brain and improve your health Longwood Seminars, March 8, 2016 Content provided by Harvard Health Publications health.

Collectively, the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal glands make up the HPA axis, which plays a pivotal role in triggering the stress response. The hypothalamus sends a chemical messenger (corticotropinreleasing factor, or CRF) to the nearby pituitary gland, which then releases its own chemical messenger (adrenocorticotropic hormone, or ACTH) into the bloodstream. ACTH travels to the adrenal glands, which respond by releasing a number of stress hormones into the bloodstream. At the same time, the sympathetic nervous system releases stress hormones, too. The combined effects of these hormones are widespread…Senses become sharper, muscles tighten, the heart beats faster, blood pressure rises, and breathing quickens. All of this prepares you to fight or flee in the face of danger. Simultaneously, the hypothalamus fires up the autonomic nervous system.

Yoga and meditation activate the relaxation response through the parasympathetic nervous system which counteracts the overactive sympathetic nervous system. (This has finally become mainstream and is no longer “fringe medicine”!) Stress hormones such as cortisol are reduced. Blood pressure may drop, heart beat slows down, breathing is slower, the muscles relax.

Along with life style changes, cultivating positive behaviors, and improved diets, yoga and meditation offer very cost-effective ways to significantly improve health outcomes. Cognitive Behavior Therapy is also found to be effective, but it can be very expensive.

For a study at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital (see the link above), two groups were studied: long-term practitioners of yoga, meditation, and repetitive prayers and a group with no prior experience of these techniques. The novice group was taught a 20-minutes sequence with diaphragmatic breathing, body scan, mantra repetition, and mindfulness. Blood samples were taken from both groups to examine gene activity–specifically on how the body deals with free radicals.

The long-term practitioners had the most significant positive change and the novice group saw some positive change after eight weeks of practice. However, this effect is not long-term, suggesting that like physical exercise, the relaxation response needs to be triggered regularly. Yoga, meditation, prayers, need to be part of a regular routine.

I have two links to free audio tracks (diaphragmatic breathing and body scan) for readers of this blog who may want to start a regular practice.

 

 

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Yoga Nidra is being taught at the Benson Henry Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital. These are Satyananda-based Yoga Nidras. The hospital is also a center for MBSR (mindfulness based stress reduction) programs established by Dr. Jon Kabat Zinn. As I am doing the Teaching Company’s Mind Body Medicine Guide by Dr. Jason Satterfield at the Unitarian Society, it has become yet another affirmation of the dovetail complement of the bio-pyscho-social model of medicine with the meditation philosophies/practices. Viewers can download free tracks from www.mahasriyoga.com/meditation that brings over 35 years of experience with Yoga Nidra and refer to the book review of Yoga Nidra by Swami Satyananda. Benson’s research started with Transcendental Meditation and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

Benson writes in his book [The Relaxation Response}, “We claim no innovation but simply a scientific validation of age-old wisdom”.[3]

The Benson-Henry Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital teaches how to elicit the response in nine steps. Benson’s website and his book describe four steps.[5] Two of those steps are essential: a mental device (a simple word, phrase or activity to repeat to keep the mind from wandering) and a passive attitude.[5][6] The goal is to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which causes humans to relax.

Benson developed the idea of the response, which counters the fight-or-flight response described during the 1920s by Walter Bradford Cannon at the Harvard Medical School.[7] According to Benson more than 60 percent of all visits to healthcare providers are related to stress. It causes the “fight or flight” hormones, epinephrine and norepinephrine, to secrete into the bloodstream. This incites or exacerbates a number of conditions. They include hypertension, headaches, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome and chronic low back pain, as well as heart disease, stroke and cancer.[8]

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Relaxation_Response

The core belief of the Benson-Henry Institute (BHI) – that teaching patients mind body approach like meditation and yoga can reduce their stress and improve overall physical health – was proven correct in a preliminary study published this fall in the journal PLOS ONE.  The study found that patients who participated in BHI programs reduced their medical visits on average by 43% in the year after taking part.

Source: http://www.bensonhenryinstitute.org/


					

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Too Many Names

by Pablo Neruda

Mondays are meshed with Tuesdays
and the week with the whole year.
Time cannot be cut
with your weary scissors,
and all the names of the day
are washed out by the waters of night.

No one can claim the name of Pedro,
nobody is Rosa or Maria,
all of us are dust or sand,
all of us are rain under rain.
They have spoken to me of Venezuelas,
of Chiles and of Paraguays;
I have no idea what they are saying.
I know only the skin of the earth
and I know it is without a name.

When I lived amongst the roots
they pleased me more than flowers did,
and when I spoke to a stone
it rang like a bell.

It is so long, the spring
which goes on all winter.
Time lost its shoes.
A year is four centuries.

When I sleep every night,
what am I called or not called?
And when I wake, who am I
if I was not while I slept?

This means to say that scarcely
have we landed into life
than we come as if new-born;
let us not fill our mouths
with so many faltering names,
with so many sad formalities,
with so many pompous letters,
with so much of yours and mine,
with so much of signing of papers.

I have a mind to confuse things,
unite them, bring them to birth,
mix them up, undress them,
until the light of the world
has the oneness of the ocean,
a generous, vast wholeness,
a crepitant fragrance.

Source: http://www.poetry-chaikhana.com/Poets/N/NerudaPablo/TooManyNames/index.html– from Neruda: Selected Poems, by Pablo Neruda / Translated by Anthony Kerrigan

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stop

The sun shines over all life without distinction
The water flows with no attempt at prejudice
The earth holds us all without labels
The tree gives fruit and shade without judgement
The breath flows from one to another giving life to all
The sky covers us with the umbrella of infinite space
Rich or poor, dark or light, man or woman
No East, West, North, or South
Seeing no country or religion
Just Being
Why let the mind divide what Nature does not

Poem: Meena Modi

Image Source: https://pixabay.com/static/uploads/photo/2016/02/01/21/53/weapons-1174491_960_720.jpg

In meditation we experience oneness. Nothing separates us from life, all beings.Can we carry that inner awareness into our outer world, our daily lives? If the inner light cannot shine on thoughts and behaviors that arise from fears and insecurities, conditioned thinking, then one must question the quality and motivation of meditation. Fears arise from lack of understanding. They imprison and painfully dissect minds, people, and communities. This poem from the March 27, 2013,  blog post is copied to renew awareness in this polarized world.

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Lady Gaga asks His Holiness The Dalai Lama about the despair and loneliness in youth; the importance of kindness and compassion for self-esteem and sense of purpose; and connecting to our shared humanity for healthier living. What meditation to practice is another question briefly explored.

Dalai Lama Lady Gaga Talk

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Thich Nhat Hanh Quote Collective's photo.

“In a family, if there is one person who practices mindfulness, the entire family will be more mindful. Because of the presence of one member who lives in mindfulness, the entire family is reminded to live in mindfulness. If in one class, one student lives in mindfulness, the entire class is influenced.”

Source ~ Thich Nhat Hanh Quote Collective

 

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