All meditation involves centering self and the mind, experts say.
By L. CROW
Upon hearing the word meditation, many people who have never tried it react with, "Oh, I don't think I can do that."
People unfamiliar with meditation often have an image of a strict Eastern discipline, sitting in a cold monastery in a lotus position with the mind in an altered state.
Certainly that is a form of meditation, but the truth is, most people naturally go into meditative states throughout the day. The trick is, recognizing it, and using it to full benefit.
"Meditation doesn't need to be structured," said Dr. M. Shayesteh, a clinical nutritionist from Boardman. "Anything that relaxes the mind and body is beautiful, priceless. This can be simply looking at flowers or listening to birds sing. We have so many negative influences in our lives, such as TV, it is important that people understand this. When we are in a relaxed state, we reduce stress hormones like cortisol, and increase brain chemicals such as serotonin and endorphins that produce a feeling of well-being."
Even though meditation has been practiced for centuries, it probably gained the most widespread recognition and popularity as a result of the Beatles' visit to the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the '60s, where they learned transcendental meditation. Jim Nero of Marlboro has practiced TM since 1975.
"TM is a mantra meditation taught worldwide," Nero said. "It is an effortless process in which the mantra is repeated silently. Thoughts drift, but you keep returning to the mantra."
A mantra is a word or phrase, often not in English, such as om, that is repeated and used to keep the mind focused. TM, unlike other forms of meditation, must be learned from a master, who gives each student his own mantra, which is to be kept private.
"TM is not better than other forms of meditation, as far as benefits," Nero added. "But it has probably had more documented research studies done to determine effectiveness than any other meditation technique. I like it because it is easy to learn and simple to do."
The type of meditation you choose often depends on what you want to gain from the practice, officials said. Are you looking for a means to relieve stress from a hectic lifestyle? Do you have a specific illness that you are battling? Do you desire to enrich your mystical or spiritual life? Or do you simply want to take responsibility in creating your hearts desire?
When we are faced with a stressful situation, we often hear, "Just take a deep breath."
But mindful breathing is actually a simple form of meditation, following the breath as it moves in and out of your body. Books have been written on the art of breathing, and there is even an audio Web site with a tape you can use to learn different forms of breath work.
The theory of mindfulness extends to not only breathing, but eating, doing chores and relating to others. The concept is to remain in the present moment and live life fully aware. There is also a Web site called "The Mindful Parent" to help child caregivers connect with children.
Perhaps the one most associated with living mindfully is exiled Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, known as not only a great teacher, but peacekeeper and author of numerous books. A local Tibetan Buddhist, Bailey, teaches mindful meditation at Treat Yourself in Canfield.
"Mindfulness meditation may include the use of sitting posture, imagery, mantras, observation of breath, and/or allowing thoughts to emerge and pass without becoming engaged with them," she said. "The deep relaxation of meditation may heal the body, quiet the mind, and provide a sense of inner balance. Spiritually, meditation is sometimes practiced to attain higher levels of consciousness or to still the mind and allow greater clarity and awareness to emerge." She also does public speaking on "Taking the Mystery out of Meditation."
Marie Lew, massage therapist and tai chi instructor in Boardman, uses meditation for healing and gathering information. "Exploring the various levels of consciousness has broadened my experience of what is possible for me in healing myself and others, in affecting the world I know, and tuning into an awareness of a larger cosmic flow," she says. Tai chi, qigong and yoga combine movement with meditation.
Back in the '40s, Jos & eacute; Silva developed a method of meditation to consciously create events or outcomes in life. Fascinated with how our thoughts were able to affect our life experience, he spent years experimenting and researching methods to slow the brain waves to "alpha level," the level at which we create art, music, dance or any activity that doesn't require linear thinking.
Silva put his method to use for everything from fighting cancer or other diseases, improving memory, finding lost objects, breaking habits, solving problems, pre-programming the day's activities and their positive outcome, and he used it to help one of his children with a bed-wetting problem. Silva Mind Control, which is a combination of meditation, self-hypnosis and creative visualization, has been taught around the world for decades. Marjorie Dearmont, of Texas, teaches the course in Akron every couple years.
Shakti Gawain, a former Silva student, wrote a book called "Creative Visualization," in which she expanded visualization meditation to include affirmations, which are positive statements written or spoken as if they were already true, such as "My life is blossoming in total perfection."
She also included writing and treasure mapping, the process of cutting out pictures of what one desires to create a visual collage of the goal, as a meditative process. The book instructs people to use these methods for everything from fighting disease, to finding life purpose, to creating prosperity and forming healthy relationships.
Every master, teacher and author of meditation has combined his own skills to create a technique that is unique. Deepak Chopra, one of the world's leading mind/body specialists has drawn on his rich background, from his Hindu-Catholic upbringing, to his studies in traditional medicine, quantum physics and TM to produce a wealth of meditation information.
Henriette Klauser guides her readers to use writing as a form of meditation. And Cleveland psychic Belleruth Naparstek teaches workshop participants the value of guided imagery meditation to solve specific physical ailments.
XLaughing Crow is a practitioner of holistic healing. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.