Friday, November 30, 2007

More on the benefits of meditation

Today I found an article that is just a list, really, of the benefits of meditation. Here's a sample:

Effects on the body:
• Reduction of pain, even with chronic problems such as cancer, heart problems or AIDS
• Improved vision (eyesight)
• Improved hearing
• Strengthening of the immune system

Effects on the mind:
• Improvement of memory powers and intelligence
• Increased concentration and attention (awareness)

Effects on psychological aspects:
• An increased feeling of identity and stronger self reliance
• Stronger sense of self through positive experiences about oneself
• Increased empathy, leading to increased openness in dealing with other people
• Increased contentment and appreciation of people and good things in life
• Improved creativity through increased intuition and inspiration
• Reduction of fear
• Reductions from addictions and other bad habits
• Improvements in dealing with
* depression
* hyperactivity
* attention deficit disorder
* post traumatic stress disorder
There are more benefits listed if you want to click through. These actually make it well worth it to take those few minutes a day for regular meditation.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Thursday life form blogging

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Life observations

My friend, Jim Mulcahy sent me the following. In a way it's not really about meditation but in another way it is. Because, if you'll remember, meditation is "knowing what's happening, while it's happening, no matter what it is." And the piece below tells us about just that:

I've learned.... That the best classroom in the world is at the feet of an elderly person.

I've learned.... That when you're in love, it shows.

I've learned.... That just one person saying to me, 'You've made my day!' makes my day.

I've learned.... That having a child fall asleep in your arms is one of the most peaceful feelings in the world.

I've learned.... That being kind is more important than being right.

I've learned.... That you should never say no to a gift from a child.

I've learned.... That I can always pray for someone when I don't have the strength to help him in some other way.

I've learned.... That no matter how serious your life requires you to be, everyone needs a friend to act goofy with.

I've learned.... That sometimes all a person needs is a hand to hold and a heart to understand.

I've learned.... That simple walks with my father around the block on summer nights when I was a child did wonders for me as an adult.

I've learned.... That life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer it gets to the end, the faster it goes.

I've learned.... That we should be glad God doesn't give us everything we ask for.

I've learned.... That money doesn't buy class.

I've learned.... That it's those small daily happenings that make life so spectacular.

I've learned... That under everyone's hard shell is someone who wants to be appreciated and loved.

I've learned.... That to ignore the facts does not change the facts.

I 've learned.... That when you plan to get even with someone, you are only letting that person continue to hurt you.

I've learned.... That love, not time, heals all wounds.

I've learned.... That the easiest way for me to grow as a person is to surround myself with people smarter than I am.

I've learned.... That everyone you meet deserves to be greeted with a smile.

I've learned.... That no one is perfect until you fall in love with them.

I've learned.... That life is tough, but I'm tougher.

I've learned.... That opportunities are never lost; someone will take the ones you miss.

I've learned.... That when you harbor bitterness, happiness will dock elsewhere.

I've learned.... That I wish I could have told my Mom that I love her one more time before she passed away.

I've learned.... That one should keep his words both soft and tender, because tomorrow he may have to eat them.

I've learned.... That a smile is an inexpensive way to improve your looks.

I've learned.... That when your newly born grandchild holds your little finger in his little fist, that you're hooked for life.

I've learned.... That everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you're climbing it.

I've learned.... That the less time I have to work with, the more things I get done.

-- Mostly from Live and Learn and Pass It On

I think this one is really important: "to ignore the facts does not change the facts." But this one has probably changed my life the most: "being kind is more important than being right." It took me a long time to learn it and I still forget occasionally. Nevertheless, I now see why it's true and I'm very glad I do.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


I love how the meditative tradition dissolves either/or thinking!

We say, ‘In calmness there should be activity; in activity there should be calmness.’ Actually, they are the same thing; to say ‘calmness’ or to say ‘activity’ is just to express different interpretations of one fact. There is harmony in our activity, and where there is harmony there is calmness.

- D.T. Suzuki

Just for fun

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Creativity and meditation

You know, I have actually had people tell me that they think meditation could be an obstacle to creativity because they think creativity requires a person to be angry or depressed or anguished. Today I found a meditation blog that speaks to the way meditation enhances creativity. First the writer tells this Zen story:
“What are you doing?” Dongshan asked.
“I’m mending clothes.”
“How do you do that?“
“One stitch is like the next,” said Shenshan.
“What, after twenty years of practice – that’s all you can say?” said Dongshan.
Shenshan put down his needle and turned to his companion. “Well then tell me. How do you sew?”
“As though the entire earth were spewing flames,” said Dongshan.
It reminds me of the teaching that we should meditate as if our hair were on fire. It reminds me how one of the Desert Fathers said that if we wished we could become "all flame" !

Then the blog owner says the following:
Here are 3 states of mind that we can cultivate through meditation. Each one fosters creativity:

1. Letting go of the ‘me, mine, myself’ mind-tape
In order to do something ‘as if the whole earth were spewing flames’, we need to dive completely into the action and forget ourselves in the process.

2. Being kind to ourselves
A kindly attitude allows us to experiment with failure without our grumpy inner editor ripping us to shreds.

3. Stilling the mind
A mind cluttered with thoughts lacks the spaciousness needed for creativity. It helps to be still for a few minutes before starting a creative endeavor. The easiest way to still the mind is to pay tender regard to the breath, or to listen to sounds. When we start the creative process from this point of stillness, ideas flow naturally and freely.
So there are more benefits to meditation than just lowering the blood pressure or reducing stress. But those who meditate regularly already know this.

Never give up!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Playing the hand we're dealt

Clyde Glandon sent me this marvelous quote:

When I don’t have any red, I use blue.

-- Pablo Picasso

There's a lot here. It's worth pondering for a long time.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The importance of listening

Here's a paragraph from an article called "Beating stress" that I found on The Meditation Society of Australia website:
People who meditate have been shown to quickly achieve health benefits such as slower heart rates, lower blood pressure, reduced oxygen consumption and lower lactic acid levels. Some have used meditation to help with everything from headaches and respiratory problems to cancer and coping with death. It is seen as a crucial tool in treating many mental illnesses such as depression or schizophrenia while it has also been shown to actually boost functionality of the immune system. Beyond the science, however, one common health benefit in dealing with stress is perhaps the most important, and that is meditation’s ability to help the practitioner to shut up and listen.
I really like the last sentence! That's what we all need: to shut up and listen.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Just do it

I found a blog posting a few minutes ago that's by someone in a 12-Step group. She writes the following about Step 11:
Meditation. Why do I find it so hard? Typically I do fine if I light a candle and stare at the flame. It is very soothing. But any other way and I feel very sleepy. So it's something I commit to continue working on. Even if it's a matter of setting a time for 5 minutes and then stopping, it's what I've got to do. Any time I actually have meditated, I've gotten so much from the experience. There are times when I've been brought to tears and couldn't even say why. Probably because I was so centered, so connected to God. So, before I go to sleep tonight, I will meditate for at least 5 minutes.

It doesn't have to be perfect. I just have to take the action and do it.
It's almost impossible for perfectionist to develop the discipline of regular, consistent meditation. The perfect is truly the enemy of the good in this case. If you think you have to be perfect in order to do it at all, you probably won't do it.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Jeannie Dibble

Easy is right

Cynthia sent me this. I really love it:

Easy is right.
Begin right and you are easy.
Continue easy, and you are right.
The right way to go easy is to forget the right way
and forget that
the going is easy.

-- Chuang Tzu

Sounds Zen doesn't it? The Zen folks just love paradoxes!

But it's true that beginning meditators tend to try to make it hard and then they get very frustrated and give up. So "easy is right" is a good slogan to go by, really.

Chuang Tzu, by the way, is the teacher who once dreamed he was a butterfly. And then he speculatated that he didn't really know whether he was a man dreaming he was a butterfly or a butterfly dreaming he was a man.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Lifting our soul

As you give thanks today, do this too:

Dive deeply into the miracle of life and let the tips of your wings be burnt by the flame, let your feet be lacerated by the thorns, let your heart be stirred by human emotion, and let your soul be lifted beyond the earth.

-- Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Wednesday life form blogging

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

An idea - a good one

Found this today. I like it.

Here is my wish for you and every other child, woman, and man on the face of the earth: Spend one week saying only kind, caring things to yourself. Say thank you at least ten times an hour, direct five toward yourself and five to the world at large. Compliment yourself (and others) each time an effort is made. Notice all the wonderful qualities and characteristics about yourself and those around you. One week. You will never go back. And your whole life will be a glorious meditation.

-- Cheri Huber

Good observation

This is really something to ponder:

How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it.

-- Marcus Aurelius

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Tuesday meditative picture blogging

This is making the rounds on the internet. Amazing, huh?

Time for gratitude

Today I found an article entitled "Don't Like Meditation? Try Gratitude Training".

Mind you, I'd like people to do both but you could do a lot worse than practicing gratitude. Here's what a study on the process found:
The results of the study indicated that daily gratitude exercises resulted in higher reported levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism and energy. Additionally, the gratitude group experienced less depression and stress, was more likely to help others, exercised more regularly and made more progress toward personal goals. According to the findings, people who feel grateful are also more likely to feel loved.
And if you need help getting started, these questions are suggested:
What am I truly grateful for in my life?

Aim for five answers, and if you have trouble at first, ask yourself alternative probing questions such as:

What relationships do I have that others don’t?
What do I take for granted?
What freedoms, unique abilities, and options do I have that others don’t?
What advantages have I been given in life?
Which allies and supporters have helped me to get to where I am?
This is about truly appreciating what we have without having to lose it first. Try it. (And meditate, too!)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Share your joy!

How's this for a new word:

I think we need a new word — "comjoyment" — as a companion to "compassion" to remind us that our greatest gift to the world may be in sharing what gives us the greatest joy.

— Sam Keen in Learning to Fly

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Meditation and social responsibility

How do we make business people into decent people? Teach them to meditate. Take a look:
Recent research lead by INSEAD concluded that while a standard executive education approach failed to increase the likelihood of managers making socially responsible business decisions, meditation based coaching programs showed a significant impact on the probability to act in a socially responsible way.
Overall this does suggest that meditation has a number of implications and applications in organisations beyond the simple ’stress reduction’ approaches that many people associated it with.
The above paragraphs were from blog posting entitled "INSEAD study shows benefits of meditation in business".

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Saturday cat blogging

Photo by Jeannie Dibble

Sorry about the lack of cats yesterday. I was in a conference all day and just ran out of time!


Some meditation traditions teach the half-smile as one part of meditative discipline. There's something to that. It helps you relax all over and feel more receptive.

Today, I found a whole little article about smiling and I want to share two excerpts that really caught my attention:

Smiling Journal - For two weeks, record the moments that brought out your wonderful smile. If you are ever feel down, flip through this book to be reminded of things that make you smile. Experience those moments and notice your state shift to a positive one. You cannot be both angry and smiling at the same time. I learned in physiological psychology that if the physical action conflicts with that of your feeling, the feeling inside will shift to match that of your outer sensation. One way to shift your emotion is to change your physiology.
Smile at Homeless People and Street Hagglers - I live in a part of downtown Seattle with lots of street hagglers and homeless people. People often ask me whether I get ‘harassed’ often. The answer is: sometimes. But they really are very nice, just like the rest of us. They too need attention and acknowledgment. So, give them a gift worth more than money. Next time someone asks you for money, don’t try to ignore them. Turn to them, smile warmly and tell them how you feel. If you don’t feel like giving money, just tell them “Sorry, I don’t have change now. Have a beautiful day!” Similarly, if something is trying to sell you something or ‘hitting-on’ you, simply turn to them, smile and say “No thank you.” I’ve found that it takes more energy to ignore and pretend to be very serious, than it is to smile. So smile! Make someone’s day!

And make your own day. Making it a point to smile frequently and genuinely really does help you do just that.

Friday, November 16, 2007

I am often dismayed by the number of people who think meditation is a selfish enterprise - that it is clearly better to engage in the kind of outward action that produces obvious accomplishments that benefit others. Well, first of all, who says you can only do one or the other? But, more importantly, why believe that meditation doesn't affect the way you treat others?

To meet everything and everyone through stillness instead of mental noise is the greatest gift you can offer to the universe.

-- Eckhart Tolle, Stillness Speaks

I know that I am more likely to be kind and open to others because I meditate. Or another way of putting it is that I am less likely to be unkind and reactive because I meditate. Mind you, I am certainly not perfect in this department. But meditation really helps and I would be foolish beyond description to give it up.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


One great cause of suffering is our attachment to our opinions. So often we not only want the right to have our opinions, we insist that they be validated by others. From the meditative point of view there is nothing wrong with having an opinion but the attachment to that opinion is sure to disturb the mind because nobody has the power to make the whole world agree with him or her:

We cling to our own point of view, as though everything depended on it. Yet our opinions have no permanence; like autumn and winter, they gradually pass away.

- Chuang Tzu

So, once more, impermanence is our friend!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Wednesday life form blogging

Photo by Jeannie Dibble

Lines to ponder

Light breaks where no sun shines;
Where no sea runs, the waters of the heart
Push in their tides;
And, broken ghosts with glow-worms in their heads,
The things of light
File through the flesh where no flesh decks the bones...

-- Dylan Thomas

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

An observation about suffering

It is so common for people to do everything in their power to avoid pain. And, sadly, it's so unskillful to do so. Here's something Thomas Merton said about that:
The truth that many people never understand, until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering the more you suffer because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you in proportion to your fear of being hurt.
We actually cannot avoid suffering by trying to control our circumstances or other people. We can, however, very quickly alleviate our suffering by letting go of our attachment to things being other than they are. In that case, the opposite of what Merton observes takes place. Fewer and fewer things end up bothering us. It's really quite remarkable how this works!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Monday meditative picture blogging

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

The hell of narcissism

Today I happened upon something Thomas Merton said that I'd never before come across:
To consider persons and events and situations only in the light of their effect upon myself is to live on the doorstep of hell.
But our culture conditions us to consider only (or, at least, primarily) the effect of other people and things on ourselves. Heck, it's no wonder so many people are so unhappy so much of the time!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Veterans Day, 2007

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier


Unconditional war can no longer lead to unconditional victory. It can no longer serve to settle disputes. It can no longer be of concern to great powers alone. For a nuclear disaster, spread by winds and waters and fear, could well engulf the great and the small, the rich and the poor, the committed and the uncommitted alike. Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind.

One day we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal we seek, but that it is a means by which we arrive at that goal. We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means.

The peace and welfare of this and coming generations of Americans will be secure only as we cling to the watchword of true patriotism: "Our country -- when right to be kept right; when wrong to be put right."

The point of nonviolence is to build a floor, a strong new floor, beneath which we can no longer sink. A platform which stands a few feet above napalm, torture, exploitation, poison gas, A and H bombs, the works. Give man a decent place to stand.

Until we have the courage to recognize cruelty for what it is--whether its victim is human or animal--we cannot expect things to be much better in this world... We cannot have peace among men whose hearts delight in killing any living creature. By every act that glorifies or even tolerates such moronic delight in killing we set back the progress of humanity.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

More on the benefits of meditation

Here's an excerpt from an article called "A 20 Minute Vacation: The Amazing Health Benefits of Meditation":
Researchers have found that meditation lowers levels of stress hormones. In fact, by decreasing the level of one such hormone – epinephrine — meditation has been shown to reduce the amount of cholesterol in the blood and therefore help arteries to remain clear. Reduction of stress hormones also supports the healthy functioning of the immune system.

This reduction in stress hormones may be explained by the relaxed state that comes about through meditation. Electroencephalograph (EEG) studies of the brain in those who are meditating show that meditation boosts the intensity of alpha waves – associated with quiet, receptive states — to levels not seen even during sleep. This relaxed state combats anxiety, and this is confirmed by research which has found lowered levels of lactic acid in the blood. (High levels of lactic acid are associated with anxiety.) Another effect of meditation is that breathing slows, so the body uses less oxygen.

Meditation has been found to be particularly helpful for the heart. Meditators have been found to have improved blood circulation, as well as a lowered heart rate, which places less demands on the heart.
More and more the research is demonstrating that meditation really does us a world of good. So what's stopping you from doing it? :-)

Friday, November 09, 2007

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

The "legend" of silence

Let's not let this happen to us!

Soon silence will have passed into legend. Man has turned his back on silence. Day after day he invents machines and devices that increase noise and distract humanity from the essence of life, contemplation, meditation... Tooting, howling, screeching, booming, crashing, whistling, grinding, and trilling bolster his ego. His anxiety subsides. His inhuman void spreads monstrously like a gray vegetation.

- Jean Arp

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The "seat belt" of mental health

Oh my. I really love this metaphor. Take a look:

I once heard a world-renowned psychiatrist pose a question to a room full of mental health experts. He asked, "What is the 'seat belt' of mental health? Seat belts save lives, they are a simple thing people can do to protect themselves from physical harm, but what is the comparable tool to protect us from the mental hazards of life? What is the seat belt to protect against the risks for unhappiness, depression, anxiety, pain, and suffering?"

We all know that the road of life is bumpy with unexpected drop-offs, accidents, and only the occasional smooth-sailing highway. I believe that meditation -- a practice for increasing awareness -- is truly a seat belt of mental health, a protection for us on the hazardous road of life. Meditation
doesn't mean sitting and reciting a mantra , although one could practice that way. Meditation is a mental exercise that heightens your awareness to experience.
True, true, true. Is it too much trouble to meditate? Well, is it too much trouble to fasten your seat belt? Think about it!

The above excerpt is from an article by Susan Smalley who has written several articles for The Huffington Post.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Loving the present moment

The author was a Vietnamese Roman Catholic archbishop who spent 13 years in a Communist re-education camp, nine years of which were in solitary confinement:

Living and loving the present moment is the key to a spiritual life. Without trust, hope and love, we will not be able to endure the hardship of life.

Trust, hope and love will surely lead us to happiness, peace and consolation going beyond the ups and downs of human relationships.

-- Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Wisdom from the Dalai Lama

This is insightful, I think:

I believe there is an important distinction to be made between religion and spirituality. Religion I take to be concerned with belief in the claims to salvation of one faith tradition or another--an aspect of which is acceptance of some form of meta-physical or philosophical reality, including perhaps an idea of heaven or hell. Connected with this are religious teachings or dogma, ritual, prayers and so on. Spirituality I take to be concerned with those qualities of the human spirit--such as love and compassion, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, contentment, a sense of responsibility, a sense of harmony, which bring happiness to both self and others.

-His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Monday, November 05, 2007

Working skillfully with anxiety

I found a really marvelous little article called "Meditation for anxiety" by a Harvard Medical School doctor. Here are some tips for letting go rather than fighting or trying to supress unwanted thoughts and feelings:
· Think of your good feelings and your bad feelings as the players holding the white and black pieces in a chess game. Struggling against your bad feelings means joining a meaningless and futile contest with yourself.

· Imagine your situation as a tug-of-war in which you are pulling harder and harder against an opponent who is dragging you toward a pit. Instead you have to drop the rope.

· Sit and picture thoughts passing through your mind in the form of words on signs held by people in a parade you are watching from a reviewing stand. Eventually you may find that you can't keep your thoughts on that kind of helpful distance. Back up and try to recall what you were thinking when the shift occurred. Then try again.

· Imagine that you are connected to a device that infallibly detects anxiety. Would this help you avoid or control the anxiety, or would the effort simply create more discomfort?
I really recommend that you click through and read the whole article. It's good.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

A celebration of companionship

Today is the All Saints Sunday - the first Sunday after November 1 on which we honor all the saints and commemorate our Blessed Dead.

Here's an excerpt from a little All Saints Meditation:
In the Northern Hemisphere, November it is a time of waning light, a time for more indoor activities of reading and reflection. It is a time of celebration for a bountiful harvest, or a time of quiet and joyful anticipation of a better year to come.

Reflecting on the lives of saints shows us the path through life, though it may be materially difficult at times, has a built in reward in that forever in our meditation we can commune with Peace and Joy.
Remember that by their lives the saints have shown that joy is an inner quality that bubbles up to fill in the spaces of each empty-seeming moment with peace and joy, fueling the fires of caring and loving devotion in activities in the world.

Finish your meditation with a deep breath in and out; stretch and go on with peace and joy, renewed and rejuvenated as with the lives of saints before and of today.
To me the best thing about the saints is their companionship. We are not alone. They are always their to cheer us on and provide enouragement and inspiration.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Saturday prayer blogging

May we be united in heart.
May we be united in speech.
May we be united in mind.
May we perform our duties
As did the wise of old.

May we be united in our prayer.
May we be united in our goal.
May we be united in our resolve.
May we be united in our understanding.
May we be united in our offering.
May we be united in our feelings.
May we be united in our hearts.
May we be united in our thoughts.
May there be perfect unity amongst us.

From the Rig Veda

Friday, November 02, 2007

Friday cat blogging!

Sandy's cat
Photo by Cynthia Burgess


Engraved over the door to the library of Virginia Theological Seminary are these words:
Seek the truth; come whence it may, cost what it will.
I found myself thinking about those words today and appreciating them. Easy answers are cheap and often very destructive. Don't let yourself be seduced by them!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Do you want a better life?

I found a little blog posting this morning called "Meditation for Better Life" . Here's part of what it says:
Modern scientific studies have proved that meditation, if practiced regularly, is beneficial in many ways. You will be able to cope with stress in a better way. Your anxiety levels will go down. Your high blood pressure will come under control. Meditation helps you deal with life’s problems. Since meditation helps you to focus better on the present moment, it works well to relieve you of the suffering you experience due to your past traumas and memories or the fears about the uncertain future.
Proven benefits of meditation include increase in the blood flow and slowing down of the heart rate and respiratory rate, increase in the levels of tolerance among patients suffering from various illnesses, increase in the level of serotonin, which influences mood and behavior. Meditation strengthens the immune system, because of which the body is better equipped to deal with infections and allergies. It works wonders for depressed people, as it raises the levels of serotonin. People can free themselves from the feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, if they practice meditation regularly. Studies have shown that even those who are prone to panic attacks experience considerable relief, as meditation lowers the levels of blood lactate. Meditation is even known to alleviate physical pain.
Of course, in order to reap these benefits, we've actually got to do it. Please don't consider meditation to be a luxury that can be skipped when you're busy. During busy times is when we need meditation the most!