Meditation

Discover ways that meditation allows you to stop, breathe, and pay attention to both your inner world and your active mind.

Posted on September 26th, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Meditation

Bubbie and the Buddha

The benefits of meditation for seniors

In a recent study, nearly 70 percent of people over the age of 60 reported experiencing loneliness, a risk factor for functional decline and early death. But those who took part in an eight-week meditation program reduced those feelings of loneliness—and gave their immune systems a boost as well. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of California Los Angeles, is published in this month’sissue of the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity.

Yoga has long been known to help ease depression and loneliness by raising concentrations of gamma-amminobutyric acid (GABA), the neurotransmitter responsible for regulating the nervous system. High levels of GABA have a calming effect. Of course, loneliness isn’t just an emotional issue; it’s a form of stress that can have physical manifestations as well, says Randal Williams, a Kripalu Yoga instructor and teacher trainer, who isn’t surprised by the study’s findings. “When I was a child I used to go to religious services with my grandmother,” says Randal. “This was her way of connecting with others. Whether it is to do yoga or meditate or walk or sit and share tea, getting together with others has a positive impact.”

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Posted on September 24th, 2012 by in Meditation

Just Breathe

I’ve been interviewing healers and spiritual teachers for a while now, and when I ask them how to live a healthier and happier life, many offer the same answer: meditate.

I hate that answer. When I was 19, I attended a 10-day meditation retreat that necessitated giving up my worldly possessions for the length of the stay, not talking, not making eye contact with anyone, and sitting in silence from 6:00 in the morning until 9:00 at night, with short breaks for meals and meditation lectures. By day two, I was like a prisoner of war planning the Great Escape. One morning after breakfast, when no one was looking, I fled the retreat in a frenzy; I just couldn’t sit in silence for 10 days and do nothing. OK, so maybe “fled” is somewhat of an exaggeration, but the bottom line is I couldn’t take it anymore. I’m just not a fan of meditation. An admirer, yes, but not a fan.

But according to Panache Desai, the spiritual teacher and inspirational visionary who chatted with me during our Kripalu Perspectives podcast, you don’t need to meditate to live a healthier and more joyful life—you just need to incorporate one of the essential elements of meditation into your day.

“Watch your breath,” says Desai, “the inhalation and the exhalation.”

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Posted on September 13th, 2012 by in Meditation

Random (and Intentional) Acts of Mindfulness

Frank Jude Boccio, whose Zen dharma name is Poep Sa, is a yoga teacher and a teacher of Zen Buddhism ordained by Korean Zen Master Samu Sunim. He is also an interfaith minister and long-time student of Thich Nhat Hanh. Here he shares a few simple yet powerful ways to integrate mindfulness practices into your daily life—when driving, working, or even drinking your morning coffee.

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Posted on August 2nd, 2012 by in Meditation

Turning Point: Tim Olmsted

Tim Olmsted has been a student of meditation for 35 years. For 12 of those years, he lived in Nepal, working as a psychotherapist and studying with many of the greatest Buddhist teachers of our time. After returning to the United States, Tim served for three years as the director of Gampo Abbey, the largest residential Buddhist monastery in North America. He now travels internationally, and is the president of the Pema Chödrön Foundation.

Q Describe what you do in 15 words or less.

A When not on the road teaching meditation for Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, I watch over the Pema Chödrön Foundation.

Q Tell us about a turning point in your life.

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Posted on June 19th, 2012 by in Meditation, Yoga

Meditation in Motion

Sometimes in our yoga practice we strive so hard to “get it right”—mastering our alignment, coordinating our breath, focusing our attention—that we stifle our inner energy (prana). Meditation in motion, or, spontaneous posture flow, is a hallmark of the Kripalu Yoga approach. In this practice, the inner wisdom of prana is allowed to guide the body, as opposed to the will of the mind. By surrendering rather than striving, prana can flow freely throughout the body, allowing movement to become spontaneous and un-choreographed. Ready to try it on your own?

At the end of your next yoga practice, close your eyes for a minute. Take some long, slow, deep breaths to get in touch with prana. Then respond to what your body is asking you to do. Allow your mind to step aside so the breath can orchestrate the movement of your body. As prana begins to move, your mind can relax into witnessing and your movement may evolve into meditation in motion.

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Meditating for a Better Brain

Aging Gracefully Through Meditation

Meditation has long been believed to be a win-win proposition, carrying certain psychological benefits with zero risk or cost. People who meditate regularly report lower levels of stress, improvements in concentration and memory, and slower reactivity (no more road rage!). The mental relaxation produced by meditation can have physiological benefits, too, in the same way we know that a calmer emotional state is good for our physical body. But a few new studies reveal that the practice may have profound effects on actual brain development—something traditionally believed to peak in our 20s and then begin to decline.

Researchers at the Laboratory of Neuroimaging at UCLA have spent years studying how meditation may affect neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to make physiological changes. In a recent study published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, the lab reported finding that long-term meditators had brain function that not only did not decline as they aged, but improved, thanks to an increase in brain gyrification—activity that happens in the cerebral cortex, or the outermost part of the brain. The lab also determined that the brains of dedicated meditators have more gray matter, which affects the brain’s ability to process information, and white matter, which helps a person communicate clearly.

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Posted on May 29th, 2012 by in Meditation

Awakening the Senses Meditation

I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order. –John Burroughs

This is a wonderful practice for spring! Remain receptive as you allow your senses to blossom.

Receive sound. Go outside. Stand or sit, and close your eyes. Touch your ears: feel the wrinkles and folds of the ears, lobes. Become aware of the ear canals, inner ears. Let sounds come to you. Allow your hearing to be soft, spacious, and open. Not needing to identify any sounds, let them make their way into your awareness as they will. Birds, insects, automobiles, an airplane high above, rustling grass, people talking. Welcome everything in.

Receive sight. Touch your eyes: feel your eyelids, eyelashes, surface of the eyes, centers of the eyes, eye sockets. Allow your eyes to open and remain soft. View the world with your peripheral vision. Like a deer or a butterfly, remain sensitive and open to the world around you, taking in all the colors, light, and shadow, form and texture. Not focusing on any particular thing, allow the world to seep into your eyes.

Flow with your rhythm. Begin to walk. Stroll aimlessly, following an inner rhythm without trying to get anywhere.

Receive fragrance. Begin to notice scent in the air, the fragrances surrounding you. Without needing to identify scents, and without needing to label them as “good” or “bad”, “pleasant” or “unpleasant”, be guided by your nose. Imagine you are a dog with a large nose who is guided only by scent. You may like to get closer to things to receive their fragrance more fully.

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Posted on May 26th, 2012 by in Meditation

Going Within to Let go

Anxious? Tense? Worried? Meditation is simple tool for self-care that can be done anywhere and anytime to de-stress, and with practice, you can reboot and find inner calm in just a few minutes. A main component of any meditation practice is focusing your attention. By creating a single point of focus, such as the breath, the multitude of distractions that overload your mind and cause stress can be cleared away. Meditation allows your mind to settle and your body to relax, creating a balanced state that benefits overall health and well-being.

Ready to try it? Find a quiet place to practice where you are free of distractions. Get comfortable, whether you’re sitting, lying down, or walking. Begin to breathe deeply through your nostrils, taking slow and even breaths. Focus all of your attention on the flow of your breath. Bring your awareness to the feelings, sensations, and sounds that occur as you inhale and exhale. Continue to breathe deeply and slowly. When your attention wanders, gently return your focus to your breath. Remember, meditation takes practice, so be kind to yourself. It’s natural for your attention to wander. When this happens, simply refocus your awareness on your breath.

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