Last Monday, I went to my first meditation class. For years, I have heard that meditation reduces stress, increases energy, and improves focus. It might also open the doors to spiritual growth. I’m finally giving it a try.
Perhaps I was inspired by Scott Coulter’s article about living in the moment, on this site last week. So I found a class on Meetup.com. That’s a great site — you just type in the kind of activity or group you’re looking for, and there’s a good chance you will find it not too far away. You have to pay to start your own group, but finding a group and joining it is free.
The class I joined is called Lighten Up Meditation. It’s meditating to music. Surprisingly, it’s not soft, gauzy New Age music. They use rhythmic, up-tempo Celtic music.
The energetic music surprised me, but Lisa, our teacher, explained that meditation is not for relaxing. It’s for focusing. The music reminds you to focus.
Lisa had us focus on one of two places in our bodies. First was the heart (fourth) chakra, which I gather is in the center of the chest. We did that for ten minutes, twice. Then she had us focus on the third eye (sixth) chakra, which is one finger width above the center of the eyebrows.
I don’t know anything about chakras, but Wikipedia says they are “centers of life force… Chakras correspond to…major [connecting points] of arteries, veins and nerves.” They seem sort of like the meridians in acupuncture, points and pathways through which our life energy is supposed to flow.
Unlike most kinds of meditation, in the type used in this class you don’t focus on your breathing, just on the chakra points. I’m not sure if the fourth and sixth chakras are supposed to have special benefits, or if they are just something to focus on. Perhaps I’ll find out more at the next class.
The day after class, I started a practice of meditating 15–20 minutes a day to Celtic music. I’m terrible at it. That’s why I’ve never stayed with it before. My thoughts just pour in. I turn them off for one or two breaths, and then they come right back.
I asked some friends and family about their experience with meditation, and they all said the same things. They tried for a while and gave up because they couldn’t keep the thoughts at bay for more than a few seconds.
But Lisa says that is totally normal. She says I just have to keep practicing. Very gradually, the thoughts will start to take longer breaks. When thoughts do come, it gets easier to let them go. Over time, you can get into deeper and deeper states. When the thoughts (brain chatter) fade, we can focus on other, more healing things.
I sense that this is possible. A few times this week, I was able to sense the world opening up as I focused on my heart, even though the periods only lasted a few seconds. And I must say I felt more relaxed afterward.
Lisa has been meditating for 25 years. She says it has changed her life profoundly, so much so that she teaches these classes for free and even gave out free CDs of meditation music. She says it has brought her to states of ecstasy, joy, and peace, and has brought huge amounts of love into her life.
That’s the kind of thing I was looking for when I came. I’ve become aware lately of people who seem to be able to visit heaven on a regular basis. Some have written books about it, like Jill Bolte Taylor’s My Stroke of Insight and Eben Alexander’s Proof of Heaven. They got there through brain damage. Now they can visit regularly through meditation or something like it. I’d like to visit, too.
Even if I never get to heaven, there are proven health benefits to meditation. This Huffington Post article reports,
Studies show that meditation is associated with improvement in a variety of psychological areas, including stress, anxiety, addiction, depression, eating disorders and cognitive function, among others. There’s also research to suggest that meditation can reduce blood pressure, pain response, [and] stress hormone levels.
Many hospitals around the world now teach a meditation form called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, because it benefits so many conditions. For 20 minutes a day, even if you can’t achieve Nirvana, it seems like it’s worthwhile.
I’ve committed to giving it one year of daily practice. I would appreciate any advice or experience you can share about meditating. Thanks.
My new book, cowritten with Jim Healthy, is out. Diabetes Heroes is about ordinary people reversing their Type 2 diabetes. A lot of inspiring stories like the ones we read here all the time, although the book features people who followed the diet outlined in Stefan Ripich’s 30 Day Diabetes Cure. It’s pretty much the same things our readers do.
You can see a very moving video interview with one of the “heroes” here. The video also tells you how to get a free copy of the book.