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Archive for the ‘Anxiety Stress Peace’ Category

Here is the wanted list! The books are in no particular order: some were more relevant than others. The teachers I go back to and read frequently are Bhante Gunaratana and Thich Nhat Hanh. The Dalai Lama’s words are always wise. Sharon Salzberg and Joseph Goldstein also provided valuable insights. Tibetan Buddhist practices are much closer to yoga meditations from the tantras, that we have practiced over all these years, than they are to insight meditations and loving kindness meditations. I created a synthesis of various practices for June meditations.
No Mud No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering by Thich Nhat Hanh
Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh
Real Happiness by Sharon Salzberg
Insight Meditation by Sharon Salzberg and Joseph Goldstein
Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Gunaratana
Beyond Mindfulness in Plain Engish by Bhante Gunaratana
Meditation on Perception by Bhante Gunaratana
The Art of Happiness by The Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler MD
The Art of Happiness in a Troubled World by The Dalai Lama
The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts
(The behavioral economist and best seller Dan Ariely provides quantitative insight. Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal was also an important medical voice carrying more weight for many readers.)
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Indian men, specifically coronary patients, responded well to Raga Desi Todi (Hindustani classical music), in a study measuring psychophysiological reactions to music at the Banares Hindu University, Varanasi, India. The men listened to the slow-paced, taped raga played on the flute for 30 minutes a day for 20 days. Healthy controls did the same.

Music’s historic role in healing, cultural and religious rituals, spiritual traditions, yoga (kirtan is devotional chanting, often of mantras), nada yoga (includes Indian classical music), has led researchers and neuroscientists to explore ways in which music can improve health and a sense of well-being. The study concluded that

1. music significantly lowered both systolic and diastolic and heart  blood pressure and heart rate in the coronary patients

2. music had no significant effect on these measures in the control group

3. both groups reported reduction in stress, anxiety, and depression; and an enhancement in life satisfaction, hope, optimism, and meaning in life

Source: “Psychophysiological reactions to music in male coronary patients and healthy controls”, Psychology of Music, June 2014  http://pom.sagepub.com/content/early/2014/06/05/0305735614536754.abstract

Several other studies have found that listening to music, playing music, increases positive emotions by stimulating parts of the brain that produce dopamine (makes us feel good). In fact, almost all brain centers light up. Levels of cortisol, associated with anxiety and stress, are lowered.

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Following through on the previous post, music (not just kirtan) can have a profound role in some diseases like Alzheimer’s  with the accompanying memory loss and dementia. Here is the lead to a scientific documentary:

Slowly, inevitably, Alzheimer’s disease robs a person of profound memories, like the names and faces of loved ones. Right now, there’s no cure. But one researcher thinks he may have found a way to help mitigate the effects of the disease—using music. Listen in to learn how.

Check out this moving and inspiring PBS documentary http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/body/alzheimers-music-au.html.

 

 

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This is the first time I have come across the term “medical meditation”. A specific meditation called Kirtan Kriya (KK) looks very promising if the numerous research studies cited in “A White Paper: Yoga and Medical Meditation™ as Alzheimer’s Prevention Medicine” , by The Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation‘s Dharma Singh Khalsa, M.D., are well-designed and statistically valid. The foundation offers a structured prevention program, online resources and information, and offers this background:

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) affects 5.4 million Americans and many more millions world-wide. As baby-boomers age, these numbers are predicted to sky-rocket to 16 million in the USA alone by 2050. Women especially bear the brunt of this raging epidemic, both as caregivers and patients. They are twice as likely as men to develop AD in their 60’s. A  woman’s lifetime risk for AD is higher than for breast cancer: 1 in 6 vs. 1 in 11. AD costs society as much as heart disease and cancer. Every 67 seconds someone is diagnosed with AD. It is our 6th leading cause of death. Two-thirds of all AD patients are women.

The paper goes on to make a long series of claims, with brain images or charts, supported by studies cited at the end of each claim.

  • reverses memory loss
  • enhances mood and well-being
  • provides anti-aging effect on the brain, body, and genes
  • leads to less tress, increased telomerase, and reduced depression
  • dramatically increases telomerase activity
  • down regulates inflammatory genes
  • up regulates 19 health-promoting genes
  • replenishes vital neurotransmitter and brain chemicals
  • improves sleep
  • promotes clarity of purpose
  • enhances psychological and spiritual well-being
  • activates the whole brain

Kirtan Kriya uses the four stages of mantra japa (repetition of a mantra) with the Sikh mantra Saa Taa Naa Maa (Sat Naam) coordinated with finger movements and visualization. Readers interested in all the details should go to the paper via the link above. The practice from the paper is reproduced below but we cannot reproduce the figures that illustrate the movements.

How To Do Kirtan Kriya

KK is a 12-minute singing exercise that people have been practicing for thousands of years. It brings together several actions: breath work, singing or chanting, finger movements (mudras), and visualization. Hence, it is a multifaceted, multisensory exercise that engages the whole brain and increases cerebral blood flow.

Posture: Sit comfortably in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Alternatively, you can sit on the floor with your legs crossed, although older adults are not likely to choose this option. The essence of the posture is to be comfortable and sit with the spine straight with only the natural curvature.

Breath: Breathe naturally as the meditation unfolds.

Eyes: The eyes are closed.

The Chant, or Mantra: The chant uses the sounds, Saa, Taa, Naa, Maa. These ancient sounds taken together mean “my true identity” or “my highest self.” The tune to which these sounds are sung is the first four notes of the familiar children’s song, “Mary had a Little Lamb.” That is, the notes are “Mar-y had a.” See Figure 1.

The Mudras, or Finger Movements: The thumb is touched to each of the other four fingers in sequence. Both hands perform the same mudra set simultaneously. 

 On Saa, touch the index fingers of each hand to the thumbs.

On Taa, touch your middle fingers to your thumbs.

On Naa, touch your ring fingers to your thumbs. 

On Maa, touch your little fingers to your thumbs.

Always go forward in sequence: thumb to index finger, middle finger, ring finger, and pinky; never go backwards. 

The Visualization: Visualize energy coming down from above into the middle of the top of the head, proceeding straight down into your brain, and then changing to a lateral direction so that it comes out of your head at a point in the middle of your forehead in the center, lined up with the nose (the spot referred to as “the third eye” in some Eastern traditions). Hence, the energy is visualized as following the path of a capital letter “L.” One may think of this action as sweeping through like a broom. 

The Sequence: Sing the sounds Saa Taa Naa Maa while also performing the mudras with the fingers of both hands. At the same time, visualize the sound flowing in through the top of your head and out the middle of your forehead in an L shape.

1. For two minutes, sing out loud.

2. For the next two minutes, use a stage whisper.

3. For the next four minutes, say the sound silently to yourself.

4. Then whisper the sounds for two minutes and then out loud for two minutes, for a total of twelve minutes.

To come out of the exercise, inhale very deeply, stretch your hands above your head, and then bring them down slowly in a sweeping motion as you exhale.

 

 

 

 

 

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Here are three links to online forgiveness meditations:

Bhante Gunaratana:

Metta Meditation begins with an extensive forgiveness component and training the mind by reconditioning it through the practice of forgiveness. This website is a treasure trove of teachings and meditations. This is a much longer talk interwoven with practice–a live recording from a retreat. Bhante is an outstanding teacher and Bhavana Society is one of the last organizations offering the teachings freely to everyone in true spiritual tradition. Voluntary donations are so important to keep these authentic teachings alive for all of us.

Jack Kornfield:

The Ancient Heart of Forgiveness is a 56-minute talk with a 10-minute forgiveness meditation at the end.

Forgiveness Meditation is the 10-minute forgiveness meditation, for those who don’t want to hear the whole talk.

Gil Fronsdal:

Guided Meditation on Forgiveness is a short 15-minute meditation, very similar to Jack Kornfield’s. The recoding is not very good (which is understandable given the shoe-string budget many operate with) but what is different is the beautiful poem at the end.

 

 

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As I prepare for tomorrow’s meditation, here is a link to a very human and fresh meaning of forgiveness which is different from the article in the last post. I recommend that everyone coming to our meditations read this as it applies to all of us.

In “What is Forgiveness?“, also from the Greater Good blog at Berkeley, Fred Luskin (Director, Stanford University Forgiveness Projects) makes the case that before you can forgive, you have to grieve. Forgiveness is the resolution of grief. He explains the connection, grief, and its three stages.

Luskin’s definition of forgiveness “is the ability to make peace with the word ‘no'”.

He explains what he means:

It is so important to be able to understand the universal experience of this–of objecting to the way life is and trying to substitute the way you want it to be, then getting upset when your substitution doesn’t take. The science of forgiveness is being resilient when things don’t go the way you want to–to be at peace with “no”, be at peace with what is, be at peace with the vulnerability inherent in human life. Then you have to move forward without prejudice.

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Thirty minutes of meditation a day may keep anxiety and depression at bay, according to research released by Johns Hopkins on January 6, 2014.

Madhav Goyal, M.D., M.P.H., an assistant professor in the Division of General Internal Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine says that meditation is not considered mainstream therapy, “But in our study, meditation appeared to provide as much relief from anxiety and depression symptoms as what other studies have found from antidepressants.” Dr. Goyal and his colleagues found that mindful meditation techniques were also promising for pain symptoms (fibromyalgia) and stress. The researchers accounted for any possible placebo effects. It should be noted that the patients who participated in the study did not typically have full-blown anxiety or depression.

In the Johns Hopkins article, Dr. Goyal states that to many people meditation means sitting down and doing nothing. But of course, this is not true. Meditation is an active mind training exercise to increase awareness and different meditation programs approach it in different ways. From my readings and experience, people suffering from extreme anxiety and a full-blown depression should not seek to treat themselves with meditations alone and should seek expert medical help.

Source: “Meditation for Anxiety and Depression?”

http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/meditation_for_anxiety_and_depression

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