Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Questions answered

Cynthia Burgess sent me a web page yesterday from the Oprah web site on which noted meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg answered some typical questions about meditation. I thought I'd reproduce three of the questions and answers here:
What do I do when my thoughts just won't stop?

Some people have a mistaken idea that through meditation all thoughts disappear and we enter a state of blankness. There certainly are times of great tranquility when concentration is strong and we have few, if any, thoughts. But other times, we can be flooded with memories, plans, or random thinking. It's important not to blame yourself. Notice that you don't invite your thoughts. You haven't said, "At 6:15 I'd like to be ruminating about the past." Thoughts come and go without our volition, but we don't have to be ruled by them.

Can meditation help me deal with physical pain?

What you learn about pain in formal meditation can help you relate to it in your daily life. In meditation, one of the first things you may notice about pain is that when you start to feel it in one part of your body, the rest of your body tenses up. This can increase the pain. Consciously take a deep breath and relax your muscles. As you relax physically, you will discover greater ease of mind.

Can meditation help depression?

Depression has many causes. While it is important to investigate its possible biochemical basis and seek out psychotherapeutic help if necessary, meditation may also be useful. Dedicating some time to meditation is a meaningful expression of caring for yourself that can help you move through the mire of feeling unworthy of recovery. As your mind grows quieter and more spacious, you can begin to see self-defeating thought patterns for what they are, and open up to other, more positive options.
I like her point that meditation is a method of self-care. If we view it that way instead of something we "should" do then we are more likely to experience meditation as something really attractive that, in fact, we want to do.

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