Category Archives for "Meditation"
“The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.”
– Sydney J. Harris
Busy streets overflowing with rushing people and loud cars. Pressure at work from the heavy workload and seemingly endless deadlines. Overdue bills. Loud neighbors. Sleepless nights.
In spite of all this new-aged chaos, people still try to cope and survive in this modern fairy tale called life.
However, everyone has their breaking point. People cannot deny the fact that time will come when they need to let go of their junk cars and old lives just to blow off steam, or else, they will erupt like a volcano. At this critical junction, some people opt to trample anyone in their way, justifying their actions by blaming others in the difficulty of living life.
Or they can stop for a second, take a deep breath, and recollect.
Just like the old saying goes, there is light at the end of the tunnel. It’s about time to take that well-deserved leave, have a break and find that inner peace in these breathtaking places.
People can find peace in Table Mountain for it is the home of four great energy vortices of the earth. South Africa considers this place as the most sacred area in their country. With its unique natural landscape, people can enjoy the calming view of how the mountains merge with the sea. It is also a serene place that is fitting to converse with a higher being and reconnect with one’s self, leaving all the stresses of city life.
The Islands of Batanes are located at the northernmost region of the Philippines. The place holds the record of the least populated province in the country, and it practically has a zero crime rate record. For those who look for a place that can give them a peaceful environment, Batanes is one of the best place to go.
Catholics who want to reconnect with their faith can visit Lourdes in France. According to the locals, the place is popular for the 1858 apparition of Virgin Mary to a shepherd girl. Groups of devotees who seek peace through religious endeavors join the annual pilgrimage to Lourdes. Attendees have the tradition to bathe and drink in the spring near the place where the apparition is said to have taken place. As such, they believe that the spring has the power to cure someone’s physical, emotional and spiritual agony.
Mount Mitchell is known for its ability to release nexus energy due to the global ley lines that run through it. The global ley lines serve as the connection among sacred sites around the world. People can meditate atop, around or near the mountain and feel the soothing energy from around the globe. Thus, it is highly suggested to try reaching its peak since it is where the sacred energies are the strongest.
Blue Hole Mineral Spring is one of the most popular places in Jamaica for people who look for healing. There are testimonies in which visitors share their experience how they feel a unique connection with nature as they bathe in the mineral spring. Moreover, some visitors even experience healing from their physical ailments. According to those who have visited the place, they see how the spring marries with warm sunlight to give off a welcoming atmosphere, especially for those who want to find peace and relax during troubled times.
Kusatsu Onsen is an invigorating place for people to find and recollect themselves. It is said that visitors can get the chance not just to connect with nature but from the people in the past. The spa is still carrying out their 1600s tradition in which visitors say a prayer in the shrine, and once they are done, they follow the ritual of pouring water over their head.
Stonehenge is one of the most well-known historic places because of its mesmerizing formation and enigmatic aura . There is no historical data that can explain how and why the stones are formed the way they are. Some says it serves as a way of reading astronomical movements. Ironically, the mystery behind the Stonehenge gives a sense of clarity to visitors, giving them a new perspective in life. People who find peace in mystery can find the Stonehenge a perfect place to visit for recollection.
No one leaves Sedona Vortex without feeling the energy that flows in the place. People who are trying to find clarity visit this place to be motivated and encourage themselves to pursue passion for art. Visitors get an uncanny feeling, and for some reason, find themselves highly inspired and start painting this serene place. Some simply return just to reignite their artistic calling.
For Judaism, the Western Wall serves as one of the most sacred sites for its followers. Similarly, travelers take the time to get a glimpse of this place for its historic value, being the only wall left in the Second Temple of Jerusalem. The people can also start reconnecting with their fellow visitors of varying faiths since the place is not strictly for those who believe in Judaism. Despite the different religions and cultures of the visitors, this holy site has become a sacred place for anyone who wants to express their faith to a higher being.
Ayers Rock serves as a great spot in finding that inner peace in life. Protected by indigenous tribes, this unique rock formation also serves as an energy vortex along the Dreamtime Track. According to these tribes, the deities walk along the energy vortex after they have created the earth. People can also feel the positive energy even without climbing the rock. Watching its beauty from afar is already enough to get be inspired.
With its intricate design and form, the Golden Temple has served as the central religious site for Sikhs. Visitors can throw their worries away as they walk around and inside the structure during its open pilgrimage. The holy activities conducted in the Golden Temple are focused on helping the attendees find spiritual comfort and solace to reach a state of inner balance and serenity.
Pumakkale Hot Springs serves as one of the oldest spas in the world. People in the community believe that the hot spring has the ability to heal whoever bathes in it. The heat generated from the hot spring comes from natural heat generated from the earth, inducing a relaxing and invigorating sensation. People can experience a deep connection with nature and one’s self through the hot springs’ good ambiance and uniquely satisfying setting.
Sometimes people just need a break to continue with life. In time of turmoil and duress, reconnecting with the one’s self is one of the best ways to relax the spiritual and physical faculties of a person. It definitely is a must try to visit one (if not all) of these places.
The trip to these sites may just give the inner peace and holistic wellness the modern man has been searching for all his or her life.
“This is the root of Self. You are not your thoughts; you are aware of your thoughts. You are not your emotions; you feel your emotions…. You are the conscious being who is aware that you are aware of all these inner and outer things.” ~Michael Singer
I sat across from my colleague with a growing sense of discomfort. I had accepted an assignment from the boss, but I heard from my colleague an undercurrent of questioning and uncertainty—or so it seemed. It was so subtle that I couldn’t quite tell what was going on.
Did she not believe I could do it? Nobody else was stepping forward to meet the need. Was she saying it’s better to go with nobody than with me?
All I knew for sure was that I wasn’t hearing this outright. I decided to let it go, head on home, think about it tomorrow, and be fully present with my family instead. But the next morning as I pulled into my parking spot in front of the office, a subtle agitation rumbled in my stomach.
I walked into the quiet building and set my things down in the office, distracted by my disquiet and wishing I could focus on my task list. The thoughts prickling at me wouldn’t let go.
I laid my pen down and asked myself, “Okay, what’s going on?”
In my top drawer I keep a deck of “grok” cards that I bought from the folks at the Center for Nonviolent Communication. Each one has the name of a need or value—things like “hope,” “trust,” and “balance” show up in this deck. I frequently use these when I can’t quite put a finger on what’s bothering me.
I flipped through the cards and sorted them as I went. In the “not now” pile went cards like “freedom,” “competence,” and “creativity.” In the next pile, the “Maybe?” pile, went cards like “security,” “meaning/purpose,” and “friendship.”
I went on sorting between just these two piles until I hit one that resonated: “Acknowledgement.” That went into a new pile: “Yes.”
A couple of cards after it I found “Appreciation.” That went into the “Yes” pile too, and then I noticed something really interesting happen: I got angry.
Usually when I sort through these cards, the experience of finding the right word to put on my current needs or values results in feeling more settled, more clear. Frequently my agitation will be replaced by a sense of gratitude, or courage to act in a way that helps me meet my needs.
Typically, that is the value for me in identifying my needs. It helps me find a more straightforward and effective path toward getting those needs met. But it didn’t happen this time.
Instead, the voice in my head just became louder and more insistent.
My coworker should be grateful for my willingness to take on this new project! She wasn’t going to step in and do anything. Why wasn’t she acknowledging that I was making a sacrifice on behalf of the team?
This narrative swept me up. It threatened to pull me under.
Slowly, I started to notice another, quieter voice saying, “Why am I getting so upset? That doesn’t usually happen after I go through the GROK cards. What can I do for myself that won’t be so negative?”
I’m going to admit this was an odd experience for me. I don’t typically have this second, quieter voice. Or, if I’ve had it, I haven’t been able to hear it.
But I did hear it this time, and it called to mind Michael Singer’s book, The Untethered Soul. I read it just about a month before.
“You are not the voice of the mind,” he wrote. “You are the one that hears it.”
He suggests that when we’re bothered by something, we can change what we identify with. Rather than identifying with all of those thoughts and feelings, we can instead identify ourselves as “the observer” or witness of what is being experienced.
As I felt myself getting swept up in defensiveness against my coworker, I decided to try it. What would happen, I wondered? I started up a new voice in my head that said, “I am not all of these thoughts and feelings. I am the observer who is noticing that Amy is having a powerful experience.”
It was almost meditation, but not quite the same as my usual practice. Michael Singer might say I was doing it wrong. A psychiatrist might have a lot of questions for me—I don’t know.
What I do know is what happened inside myself. As I identified myself as “the observer who is noticing that Amy is having a powerful experience,” I relaxed. I let go of the waves of negative thinking.
I realized that I could talk to myself the way I would talk to a dear friend who is feeling unacknowledged and underappreciated. I realized I could give myself compassion.
I imagined telling myself, “I’m sorry you haven’t been appreciated. That’s hard. You are still okay.”
I admit I feel extra vulnerable as I type that out. Part of me doesn’t want to admit that I talk to myself in this way. On the other hand, this was such an amazing experience!
I was able to walk myself through processing my own needs and emotions in ways I’ve never done before. As soon as it happened, I wanted to shout it out to the rest of the world, “Hey, I’ve found a path that looks like it leads somewhere good! Come check it out!”
Do you ever feel the emotional undertow of unpleasant, uncomfortable feelings? Have you tried to resist them without success? Perhaps it would help to identify yourself as the observer.
Accept that the feelings and thoughts are there, but instead of identifying with them, try identifying yourself as the observer or witness who is noticing that this experience is flowing through.
Perhaps you already know this part of the path. Have you tried a practice like this? What works for you?
Pain is subjective. It is a sensory and emotional experience that can be influenced by countless factors, ranging from expectations to mood or even faith. Chronic pain can be highly despairing and significantly affect one’s quality of life and emotional state. The currently available analgesic treatments don’t always work, and pain researchers keep searching for more effective options for pain management.
In the last decades, there have been many studies proposing that mindfulness meditation can reduce pain and improve health, both in experimental and in clinical contexts.
Mindfulness meditation is a cognitive practice that involves paying full attention to whatever internal and external experiences are occurring in the present moment, as you experience them. It is a technique that combines focused attention on breathing with objective non-judgmental acceptance of arising thoughts and sensations. This means accepting an experience with an even mind, not judging it as good or bad.
One of the main doubts regarding the analgesic effect of mindfulness meditation has been how exactly it happens. It could be argued that mindfulness meditation could simply reduce pain through a placebo-like effect, or due to the context of participating in a meditation intervention, including expectations, shifted attention, the setting, body posture, breathing, or other processes associated with the simple awareness or belief that one is practicing meditation.
In 2015, The Journal of Neuroscience published a study whose goal was to precisely determine whether or not the neuronal mechanisms of mindfulness meditation-induced pain relief were similar to those of placebo analgesia, or if they were due to contextual influences.
The study combined different approaches, including psychophysical, physiological, and brain imaging methods, to test the hypothesis that mindfulness meditation reduces pain by activating specific neurological mechanisms, different from those of placebo analgesia. Given the impact that the context of a meditation intervention can have on pain perception, as mentioned above, the study also compared the effect of active mindfulness meditation with a sham mindfulness meditation technique – one that would lead the participants to believe that they were practicing mindfulness meditation, but that would only engage relaxation mechanisms.
As had been hypothesized, it was found that mindfulness meditation decreased pain intensity and unpleasantness beyond the analgesic effects of placebo or sham mindfulness meditation. Furthermore, effective mindfulness meditation engaged brain mechanisms that were indeed distinct from those of placebo-induced analgesia or sham mindfulness meditation.
Whereas sham mindfulness meditation-induced analgesia was associated with lower respiration rates, reflecting a relaxation response, mindfulness meditation-reduced pain ratings were independent of respiration rate and were achieved via neurological mechanisms of pain modulation. Mindfulness meditation decreased the activation of brain regions involved in processing sensory information and in the cognitive modulation of pain. This study indicated that mindfulness meditation is an active cognitive practice, whereas a placebo effect arises from a more passive cognitive state.
What was still to be understood were the details of how mindfulness meditation induces the analgesic effect, what neurochemical pathways it activates in the brain. The same research group from the aforementioned study now aimed at trying to find an answer for that. In a new study, also published in The Journal of Neuroscience, they hypothesized that, given the high concentrations of opioid receptors found in brain regions associated with the cognitive modulation of pain, and the known involvement of endogenous opioids in the cognitive inhibition of pain, maybe this system could be part of the mechanisms of mindfulness meditation-induced analgesia.
Using naloxone, a drug that blocks the effect of opioids, it was shown that the inhibition of the opioid system did not affect analgesia induced by mindfulness meditation. In the control group, on the other hand, the blockade of the opioid system induced an increase in pain perception, as expected. Although there are many other neurotransmitter systems which can account for the analgesic effect of mindfulness meditation, these results are still surprising – the opioid system is one of the main modulators of pain and the fact that it apparently has no influence on the mechanisms of mindfulness meditation-induced analgesia is intriguing.
The authors of this study speculate on some alternative explanations for this effect. They suggest that “mindfulness meditation may be a complex, cognitive process that likely engages multiple brain networks and neurochemical mechanisms to attenuate pain.”
Mind over matter
Indeed, there is mounting evidence indicating that mindfulness meditation activates brain regions associated with the contextual evaluation of pain. A reduced activity of the thalamus has also been reported; this is important because the thalamus is one of the main structures in pain processing – it receives sensory information, processes it, and then transmits it to the cortex, were it reaches consciousness. The fact that thalamic activity may be reduced due to mindfulness meditation therefore indicates that it may somehow diminish sensory processing, or that it may prevent this sensory information from reaching conscious awareness.
Although there is still a lot to be learned about its processes, what seems somewhat clear is that mindfulness meditation may be an interesting alternative approach to pain management – it’s mind over matter.
Brown, C., & Jones, A. (2010). Meditation experience predicts less negative appraisal of pain: Electrophysiological evidence for the involvement of anticipatory neural responses Pain, 150 (3), 428-438 DOI: 10.1016/j.pain.2010.04.017
Grant, J., & Rainville, P. (2009). Pain Sensitivity and Analgesic Effects of Mindful States in Zen Meditators: A Cross-Sectional Study Psychosomatic Medicine, 71 (1), 106-114 DOI: 10.1097/PSY.0b013e31818f52ee
Zeidan, F., Adler-Neal, A., Wells, R., Stagnaro, E., May, L., Eisenach, J., McHaffie, J., & Coghill, R. (2016). Mindfulness-Meditation-Based Pain Relief Is Not Mediated by Endogenous Opioids Journal of Neuroscience, 36 (11), 3391-3397 DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4328-15.2016
Zeidan, F., Emerson, N., Farris, S., Ray, J., Jung, Y., McHaffie, J., & Coghill, R. (2015). Mindfulness Meditation-Based Pain Relief Employs Different Neural Mechanisms Than Placebo and Sham Mindfulness Meditation-Induced Analgesia Journal of Neuroscience, 35 (46), 15307-15325 DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2542-15.2015
Zeidan, F., Gordon, N., Merchant, J., & Goolkasian, P. (2010). The Effects of Brief Mindfulness Meditation Training on Experimentally Induced Pain The Journal of Pain, 11 (3), 199-209 DOI: 10.1016/j.jpain.2009.07.015
Zeidan, F., Grant, J., Brown, C., McHaffie, J., & Coghill, R. (2012). Mindfulness meditation-related pain relief: Evidence for unique brain mechanisms in the regulation of pain Neuroscience Letters, 520 (2), 165-173 DOI: 10.1016/j.neulet.2012.03.082
Zeidan, F., Martucci, K., Kraft, R., Gordon, N., McHaffie, J., & Coghill, R. (2011). Brain Mechanisms Supporting the Modulation of Pain by Mindfulness Meditation Journal of Neuroscience, 31 (14), 5540-5548 DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5791-10.2011