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In Praise of Meditation

“Om,” I say. “What,” say you? Yes, that nebulous, airy-fairy intonation that has sent more than a few critical thinkers into a that-does-not-compute, don’t-waste-my-time-with-such-nonsense, let-me-debunk-you sneer -- is to me, a miraculous find. I heard David Lynch and Paul McCartney talk about it one night a couple of years ago, citing their specific practice of transcendental meditation (TM). Of course, I had heard about meditation before, but not until then really considered incorporating it in my life. I later heard more about its value for the disenfranchised military returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), only to find joblessness here in the U.S. (i.e., adding post-traumatic insult to injury).

Interested, I checked out the TM website and was surprised to see a testimonial given by Jerry Seinfeld. His was not a face I would automatically expect to be linked to TM, yet there he was. (I recalled he always seemed “loose” during his Seinfeld run. Maybe this was why.) Wanting to know more, I picked up TM’s signature work by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi entitled Science of Being and Art of Living - Transcendental Medication. A bit weighty and esoteric (and it repeats a LOT -- for emphasis, I told myself) but it was good. I got it. When finished, I did a Google search to discover other meditation variations to see what else was “out there,” then decided to try to “lotus” myself (sit cross-legged) and see what happened.

The result? After just two 20-minute morning sessions, I felt a major shift. Subtle yes, but almost immediate. And it was so simple, because really, I DID NOTHING, save for what Maharishi describes as to -- bear with me now -- “absorb essence.” I sincerely hope that hasn’t sent you off my blog screaming. To put oneself in that absorption mode, however, necessitates one drop all resistance (physical, mental, habitual), which is less easy. It’s about letting go. (I know many buttoned up, controlling Alpha types will have a hard time with that one.) For the new meditator, focusing on relaxed breathwork is a good place to start. Then, aspire to be like an “an empty rice bowl” -- a Zen Buddhism tenet -- and see what happens. Let me say from experience: great things can occur.

Here’s what I haven’t seen written about meditation that I wanted to offer:

• Its benefits may not be immediately apparent, but may arise later in the day, when you least expect it. A sweeping calm can just come over you in response to an unpleasant stimulus that takes you pleasantly by surprise.

• It’s like taking an internal shower, to get rid of mental and emotional debris. Instead of just the external one we rely on to refresh us in the morning, why not have a “full body” experience, when so many of us walk around amped up, spaced out, tuned out, raging or droning on the inside from stuff that happened two days, two months, or two years ago?

Another analogy might be that it’s like hitting a reset button. Back to neutral. Square one. Similar to doing a laptop reboot without having to do a hard install of your whole system when things go awry. Experts (such as the doctors mentioned below) do say disease conditions can creep up slowly, and that relaxing the sympathetic nervous system can stave off a lot of physical problems before they take up permanent residence within us. So like eliminating cookies from computer downloads, emptying your computer cache. . . you get the idea. It’s preventive self-maintenance.

These are just some thoughts I wanted to share as I learn and grow in my practice. Can you tell I’m really enamored by it? But don’t just go by me; try the Mayo Clinic Meditation App and listen to Dr. Amit Sood describe theory and practice. Listen to Doctors Amen, Weil, Chopra and Oz, and I’m sure you’ll find too, that meditation is good for your stressed and oft-cranky brain.

Why not take 5 minutes and see what happens? “Om,” I say. Namaste.

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