Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Why we meditate

Cindy Reynolds brought me a wonderful article from the Journal of the American Psychological Association called "The Meeting of Meditative Disciplines and Western Psychology" by Roger Walsh and Shauna L. Shapiro. I used the article as a springboard for the ongoing classes this week and we got a lot of good mileage out of it. I was particularly struck (as were several others) by two definitions - one of meditation and the other of equanimity. I thought I'd share those here:
The term meditation refers to a family of self-regulation practices that focus on training attention and awareness in order to bring mental processes under greater voluntary control and thereby foster general mental well-being and development and/or specific capacities such as calm, clarity, and concentration.
Equanimity: the ability to experience provocative stimuli nondefensively and with minimal psychological disturbance.
Both of these definitions point to why meditation helps so much with alleviating suffering. Often we suffer due to a deficit in self-regulation. That's when afflictive emotions go haywire. And wouldn't it be nice to be able to be provoked without our defenses kicking in and detroying our peace? That's what regular meditation can help us with.

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