Meditation is the best cure for stress, and it has no harmful side effects! It’s a simple and powerful solution. And what is more, it offers you a doorway into a world of peace and dynamism beyond your current experience.
But in order to appreciate the benefits of meditation it is helpful to first understand how stress affects our life. If you’ve ever being worried, let’s say, when trying to meet a deadline, going to a job interview, or meeting financial obligations, then you know the symptoms of stress. Your heart beats faster and irregularly, you get sweaty palms, the stomach cramps up, jitters start shaking you all over and the mind stops thinking clearly. Whenever we are going through mental, physical and/or emotional agitation, we are under the control of the “fight or flight” brain – the amygdala – and we are under stress.
In simple terms, the amygdala is the part of the brain in charge of survival-related functions. All information gathered by our senses is first received by this “fight or flight” part of the brain. If no threat is perceived, the amygdala then passes the information to the rational brain for creative higher thinking. But if a threat is perceived – and it could be anything from “What if I get a bad grade to what if I die…” to other serious life threats – the amygdala floods our system with adrenaline. All the blood rushes into our muscles and away from our brain and internal organs.
When a “what if” scenario is triggered , the adrenaline gives us the energy necessary to run faster, be stronger, and have super reflexes but, according to the personality of the individual, it can also trigger immobility and the inability to think, speak or act.
If you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, the adrenaline is most certainly harming you rather than aiding you. Your physical health and emotional behavior is in chaos. You may find yourself reacting aggressively, irrationally and harming others in order to protect yourself, even when there is no actual event to protect yourself from!
Remember, all it takes is for the amygdala to perceive potential danger and you will be in the midst of a “fight, flight or freeze” response. “What if I don’t get a raise?” can trigger survival instincts equal to you being chased by tigers.
Meditation takes us from the amygdala’s “What If” to the rational brain’s “What Is”
Meditation, on the other hand, helps us reconnect with our rational high-thinking brain. Established in the “Now” of the rational brain, a person that meditates experiences a deep friendliness with what Is. Reaching the ecstatic state of love for all, the meditator’s brain starts releasing “happy” chemicals such as dopamine, oxytocin, endorphins and serotonin. The more we embrace “what is” through meditation, the more happy neurotransmitters we get to experience. Instead of stress and fear blocking us from action, the rational brain helps us see and clearly engage in the world with increasing joy, regardless of the circumstances.
How would a “what is” space translate in a serious life event? Let’s say you are notified of a terminal disease and you now have only weeks to live. Instead of feeling immobilized by sorrow and anger, in the space of “what is” you will have the clarity to set your affairs in order, to be at ease with yourself and others, to express your last wishes clearly, and appreciate every breath as a precious gift.
Because “What is” accepts life in all its permutations, even when death comes to greet you, you will observe the happening with curiosity and appreciation. To live in this space is not an impossibility! We often hear stories of individuals that have lost limbs and/or essential physical motions, yet they are so joyous. They have learned to bypass stress and tapped into the space of increasing happiness.
Meditation is the way to alignment
You may think “meditation is for yogis, not for me. How can I meditate when all I want to do is scream and shout?” Meditation is not about sitting in cross-legged lotus posture in a cave or mountain. Meditation is an inner space where one can be with life in deep friendliness, clarity and ease. Whether you are active or passive, when aligned with What Is, you are in meditation. Meditation is a lifestyle!
As we embark in the path of meditation, it is helpful to first acknowledge through self-observation, the suffering our amygdala has sought to protect us from. The amygdale brain has kept track of all the painful and fearful situations we have lived through, in order to protect us from such events ever happening again. It remembers our first breath and how as newborns we were received into life by a doctor who spanked us and held us from our feet upside down! It remembers the feeling of being hungry as babies, helpless, cold, feeling alone and unprotected. The amygdala was there to protect us, giving us the energy to cry and seek help.
By acknowledging the vital role of the amygdala, we also learn to forgive all the irrational ways in which we behaved and felt, while in “fight or flight” response. The memory of the doctor spanking us can be understood and released, and we may feel our life-long fears of interacting with new people, doctors included, disappear. By understanding how the amygdala’s reaction to hunger affected you, you will see life-long eating disorders lessen or resolve altogether. By understanding and forgiving the amygdala’s reaction to being alone as a baby, suddenly we find joy in being by ourselves, relishing the silence of our Being.
As you clear engraved memories of pain, a beautiful space of peace and clarity starts opening in you.
Often at memorials we hear the phrase “He is now in a better place”, or “She finally rests in peace”. These are expressions of our deep yearning to live a stress free life. The good news: we do not need to physically die to attain this peace. By aligning with “What Is”, through the application of simple meditation practices, we can live in this idyllic peace every single moment of our life.
Meditation has many forms. To show you the variety of forms, here are summaries of three very different meditations techniques that will help align you with the state of “what is”. There are more detailed descriptions for meditations further on in the e-book.
Awareness of the Breath:
Carve one minute of quiet time for yourself out of your busy life, and find a quiet spot. Sit and relax. Bring your focus to your breathing. Bring awareness to the air going in and out of your nose. Enjoy feeling the movement of that air. After one minute, see if you can find time to sit in this space of enjoyment for a second minute.
If you find meditation difficult, boring or impossible, then this meditation is for you! Especially for those dynamic action takers, the type As amongst us. This meditation is the key. It quickly bypasses the cluttered thoughts of “This is boring” and “My mind is going crazy” and takes us into the ocean of calmness by having us focus on an action.
Find a quiet place where you can make sound without being disturbed or disturbing others.
Sit. Take some deep breaths. Make the sound of the letter “M” as a strong hum. Make the sound as long as you can between breaths, and as loud as you can. Keep the focus on the sound. Approach this focused exercise as though you are engaging in an intense workout. Go full out in keeping your focus, and making the sound. Do this for 20 minutes. At the end of the 20 minutes sit in silence and have some quiet music playing in the background.
Power up any meditation
To power up any meditation so that the meditation is deeper, more powerful and more fulfilling, do this: Put on your favorite wild dance music. Clear a space to dance. Fly at it. Free form or structured dance is fine as long as there is lots of chaotic movement. This form of meditation comes from the founder of Yoga, the Indian saint Patanjali, who recommended that you dance as though your body is that of a snake, 360 degree flexibility, and a rubbery flow that moves and jiggles every cell in your body. Do this for 2-5 minutes before sitting down for the sitting meditation.
Here is a great video on stress meditations. Please watch from the 4 minute and 25 second timing.