One of the first findings on the effects of meditation on the brain were very large amounts of gamma brain waves reported in long-term practitioners (Lutz et al (2004)). An important problem with that study was the fact that we had no idea how these gamma waves came about. Were they caused by the meditation or were the people that took part in this study simply weird people? Recently, a new study was published that shed light on this issue.
Just in case you are not a fan of a clear and determined intention to practice right after getting up or you don't feel like morning meditation is something to look forward to, maybe this one works ...
Our deepest wish as parents is for our children to be happy. We feel intensely our children’s pain and suffering and would literally do anything to help them. But often we find ourselves at a loss - we don’t know what is troubling them, or how to help, though we keep trying to talk it through, figure it out, fix it up!
Really listening and attending to our children can often be enough to ease their suffering. However, sometimes they do not know what is distressing them, or they may feel powerless to change an old habit such as worry and anxiety, an explosive temper, or fragile self-esteem. Some children also feel that they are in some way ‘bad’, they feel unloved and unlovable.*
Here is the second part of Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche's discussion on the essence of meditation, go here to review the first one.
In this one he gives very practical advice on how to deal with difficult emotions, how you can use anger, low self-esteem, fear etc as support for your meditation.
You can find more about how to work with difficult emotions in Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche's book "The Joy of Living".
In this video Sogyal Rinpoche explains that when you are not feeling well, the best thing to do is to sit quietly, not focussing on your problems and allow your mind to settle.
Meditation is about getting used to being in the state of non-distraction. Or, and this is even better, mediation is about not being distracted by your distractions!
When you begin the practice of meditation, you may become pretty disheartened to learn that your mind is everywhere else but on your meditation. Even after years of practicing meditation, there are times when instead of meditating, I find myself caught up in a sea of emotions and thoughts, unable to do anything but try desperately to ride the waves and not get swept away.
When trying to learn about recent advances in scientific understanding of meditation and how it affects our brain and consequently our emotional well-being, Daniel Goleman and Professor Richard Davidson are the two guys who I would want to have explain it all to me. And there is a fabulous cd or mp3 down load from More Than Sound Productions called “Training the Brain: Cultivating Emotional Intelligence” which is a conversation between Dan and Richard on just that topic.
Daniel Goleman talks about the intersection of traditional contemplative practice and modern science.
If this first tip doesn't do it for you, here is another way to motivate us to meditate first thing in the morning
2. Something to look forward to
My teacher told a bunch of us once that it is very important to make sure your practice is something you look forward to doing. I think you can do this in a couple of different ways. For a start try to remember your original intention for taking up meditation. Somewhere, way back in the past, before it became some sort of penance or remedy for spiritual guilt, you may have had a real enthusiasm and interest in meditation, and it was something that you could hardly wait to try out. The key is to remember this feeling again and generate some sort of excitement about the thought of getting back to your cushion.
While my wife and I were on our Fall camping vacation last week, I was "meditating" near a pathway in a botanical garden on cliffs over the Pacific while she was taking photos. The rugged coast of northern California is so beautiful!
Since I'm always going on about how useless that word "meditation" is, unless you get a lot more specific about exactly what a person is actually doing, let me elaborate on that.