Someone asked me the other day whether I thought meditation could help Lindsay Lohan. I guess ‘help’ here means something like ‘support’. The short, immediate reply was ‘yes’, but then I started wondering why that is the answer. Here’s what I thought about it…
Just now, I had a treatment at the dentist. To be exact, it was one long treatment in two steps on two days. It was one of those really unpleasant treatments, opened by a countless number of injections all over the mouth, followed by horrible noises and massive mechanical interaction during which the little snatches of pain arriving at your nerves give you a glimpse of what it would feel like if you wouldn't have a tea cup of anesthetics inside your gums. So in one phrase: the whole program of experiences that make those visits at the dentist a nightmare for 9 out of 10 people.
But this time it was different. Or, it was the same but it felt completely different. Why? Because I had made a decision before.
Ahh, meditation. What a luxury to experience, just for a moment, the profound inner peace that may come with a simple practice like watching the breath.
If you’re a parent and reading this, then you are likely to agree that parenting our little ones introduces each of us to the myriad states of mind that are possible in the human condition. It wasn’t until I became a mother, that I experienced the fathomless depth of possible emotions.
Something quantitatively different began to stir in my mind once I began the parenting journey. Psychology tells us that it is the function of the limbic brain, where our survival responses dwell as well as our emotions and our sheer biological function to protect and rear our young. It just happens that we become emotionally activated through parenting. Does meditation help us to manage our emotions? Practicing meditation while on this rollercoaster ride of parenting has most definitely provided me (and continues to do so) with a stable and spacious ground from which to raise a family.
Sogyal Rinpoche explains how we can integrate meditation into our everyday lives
Sogyal Rinpoche explains how we can integrate meditation into our everyday lives.
In my last post I wrote about how we can find a common ground between the many different approaches to meditation. Today I want to share a list of questions that might be useful to ask ourselves to clarify our practice, regardless of what kind of meditation we may be practicing.
When I started meditating several years ago, it became pretty obvious after a while that meditation had a very positive effect on my general well-being, health and management skills at work. But I had little idea why it really worked. As a scientist (I specialised in theoretical Quantum Physics), that was quite some problem for me. After all, meditation is a subjective experience, whereas science is focused on objective measurements and reproducible results, so I was naturally running into a clash of paradigms.
People told me that meditation was a way to train or tame my mind, to finally gain control over my busy monkey mind, rather than being a victim of patterns and habits and always falling prey to what I thought and felt. But what is this mind after all? Buddhism and other spiritual traditions provide lots of answers, yet my scientific appetite was not yet satisfied. To cut a long story short, I couldn't find any convincing scientific explanation of what mind really is. The best I read was about a ‘non-local coherent superposition of quantum states in the brain’ (ok, I liked that as it sounded somewhat familiar to me).
Unsurprisingly, most scientific approaches indicate a connection between the physical brain, which can be measured and experimentally investigated by neuroscience, with the non-physical mind (have you ever seen, tasted or smelled your mind?), so they claim that it should be possible to get at least some idea of how meditation works if you study its effects on the brain.
There is a wide range of articles on experiments that have been carried out on people while they are meditating. One of the most prominent and fascinating people who have been wired up in the laboratory so far is Mingyur Rinpoche, a young Tibetan meditation master whose readings when he was meditating were off the charts. The following interview is taken from View magazine, Rigpa’s online journal.
A few weeks ago I travelled to South Asia to investigate something I know very little about:
My own mind.
After a couple long flights and a dusty taxi ride, I arrived at a small retreat center in Nepal. In no time I discovered that the internet has indeed made its way to every corner of the globe and that I could still get online. So with great excitement I checked e-mail, BBC World News and half a dozen other sites including, of course, the latest college basketball scores. However, after an hour or two, I remembered my mission, closed facebook and skype, shut my computer, and sat down…for quite a while.
“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom” - Aristotle
There are times when my mind seems to turn against me. It brews up a tumultuous storm. Gnarly emotions trying to get my goat and succeeding from time to time - or so it seems. Even meditation seems like a Herculean feat.
Does that ever happen to you?
One day, as my mind was bombarded by an onslaught of strong emotions, I wandered down to the ocean’s shore. Sitting on the firm black sand, watching the waves roll in again and again, this is what came into my mind.
I’m really happy to read on this blog that neuroscientists are investigating meditation and finding that it has measurable benefits. If meditation is ever going to become a real force for social evolution, then governments, social agencies, vast multinational corporations, environmentalists, bankers, students and the guy on the cash till at your local corner shop all have to be convinced that it works. Scientific research is a vitally important factor in this process, and I hope that the number of research projects increases exponentially.
But you don’t necessarily need science to discover that meditation works.