Glide Lunch & Learn: Benefits of Meditation

I was honored to be invited to give a presentation at Glide about the benefits of meditation.

Glide’s clinic provides health care to the residents of San Francisco in the Tenderloin District, with intention to break the cycle of poverty and marginalization.

Here is a summary of the information I covered.

I have been meditating since 2008 and learned from a Zazen practitioner, Gabriel Rogers.

Yoga as it pertains to meditation:

Yoga has eight limbs, many of which encapsulate aspects of meditation. Asanas focuses on mastering the body by way of holding poses.

Limbs five, six, seven, and eight; Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi (respectively) may be interpreted as practices of different types of meditation.

5 – focuses on controlling senses

6 – involves concentration & cultivating inner perceptual awareness

7 – specific meditation on the Divine

8 – union with the Divine

The practice of Yoga has a similar culminating journey toward Nirvana (bliss) in Buddhist meditation.

Scientific Benefits of Meditation

Sourced from links on Dr. Emma Seppala’s webpage. I found it to be an excellent source of scientific research and evidence of the many benefits of meditation.

  • Increases Immune Function – subjects meditating in a compassionate, mindful manner demonstrated increase antibody production to combat influenza.
  • Decreases pain – guides our mental processes to interpret the experience of pain in a more manageable way.
  • Decreases Inflammation on a cellular level – participants at suffering from cardiovascular disease demonstrated a decrease of stress and CRP (c-reactive protein) levels.
  • Improves memory, creativity, and attention span – subjects who meditated for four continuous days for twenty minutes each day showed an improved capacity for memory construction, creativity, and focus.
  • Increases grey matter – subjects who meditate show a measurable increase in grey matter density in certain cortices.
  • Increases volume of brain tissue in centers of emotional regulation, self-control, and positive emotions.
  • Increases cortical thickness in areas related to paying attention.

Summaries from the ArtofLiving.org list these benefits and more:

  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Regulates seratonin production
  • Boosts energy levels
  • Lowers blood lactate; reducing anxiety.

The question was posed: What are some different ways to meditate?

My answer: there is no wrong way to meditate. One can meditate laying down, seated, in traditional full/half-lotus postures, on a seiza (meditation bench). One can meditation by focusing on breath, with prayer beads, counting finger segments, using a mantra (focus phrase), holding a mudra (hand position), or an combination of these and more.

Conclude with a brief meditation exercise. Follow-up with insights and observations from group.

Thank you for your warm welcome, attention, and participation in today’s presentation.

Medical Journals and Articles sourced

Psychoneuroendocrinology

Effect of compassion meditation on neuroendocrine, innate immune & behavioral responses to psychosocial stress. 2009

Journal of Neuroscience

Brain Mechanisms Supporting Modulation of Pain by Mindfulness Meditation. 2011

Brain, Behavior, and Immunity

Workplace based mindfulness practice & inflammation: a randomized trial. 2013

Neuroimage

The underlying anatomical correlates of long-term meditation: Larger hippocampal and frontal volumes of gray matter. 2009

Psychosomatic Medicine

Alterations in Brain and Immune Function Produced by Mindfulness Meditation. 2003

Neuroreport

Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness. 2006

Cognitive Therapy and Research

The effects of mindfulness meditation on cognitive processes and affect in patients with past depression. 2004

General Hospital Psychiatry

Three-year follow-up and clinical implications of a mindfulness meditation-based stress reduction intervention in the treatment of anxiety disorders. 1995

A refreshing trip to the Earth’s Root Chakra: Mt. Shasta

A trip to an energy vortex is a must for each soul. This is exactly what we did over a few days to refresh ourselves after a summer of hard work. We read a while ago that Mt. Shasta is considered to be one of the Earth’s seven energetic chakras; the Root Chakra. As residents of San Francisco, this was an easy excursion. On our first night at camp, as we lay in our tent, I looked out the mesh window and saw a shooting star pass right through the constellation Taurus: a good omen. Throughout that night we acclimated to this greener climate, and listened to the sounds of the environment around us. Every twenty minutes or so we would hear a great rushing breeze swooping from the mountain tops down into the valleys below, refreshing our lungs and fueling our dreams.

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During our most explorative day, we ventured up the mountain to a cluster of trailheads near the end of the paved road. Upon recommendation from the kind people at the Visitor’s Center in Mount Shasta City, we made our way along the Panther Meadows trail. At the head of this trail is a message board which offers a brief history and survey of the mountain meadow. We discover that this meadow is considered a sacred healing space by the indigenous people. They still perform healing rituals here. Previous foot traffic had destroyed the meadow, however, it’s been recently restored by the park service to our our delight.

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The forest service has been working diligently to restore this meadow, and kindly asks its patrons to enter and stroll mindfully. We are more than happy to do so. As we enter, the landscape is bordered with coniferous trees and boulders. The first opening is rather stoney, as well. Continuing on toward the upper meadows aspect of the trail, we walk through another tree-lined boulderous region. A quick jaunt through this part spills us out over the upper edge of the meadow. The view is breathtaking; tree covered rolling ridges in the background, cloud-speckled pristine blue skies overhead, supremely refreshing breezes abundantly flow over us, and the flower and mountain grass laden meadow before us.

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The Panther Meadows spring is just a few feet beyond this point, so we venture over to it. It is protected by a stone barrier shaped like a keyhole. At the center of the bulbous aspect, the gentle burbling of the water pushes up from the depths Shasta. It quickly becomes a quiet babbling brook, which adds to the astonishment one experiences knowing that this water creates this immaculate meadow. We sit and soak-in the energy from this special place for a few minutes. One feels the purity of this place, and understands its sacredness.

 

I am reminded of my trip to Lago Titicaca (Lake Titicaca) in Bolivia/Perú, during which I had the honor of visiting the Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun) and drinking the Agua de la Fuente de la Vida (Water of the Fountain of Life). That experience, though nineteen years prior, is still sharp in my mind. With equal respect for this mountain spring, I stretch my legs across the short gap in stones over the brook, stoop down, take a full double-palm of water, and let it flow into my mouth, filling me with its essence. It is crisp, fresh, and pure. Swallowing, I savor this moment; appreciative.

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From this mountain meadow spring we venture on to the nearby town of McCloud in pursuit of a swimming hole to splash the end of the day away. We trekked along an elevated pathway overlooking the Upper and Middle Falls; spectacular and alluring. People are swimming in each fall-carved well along the way. The scene is idyllic as the sun begins to rest. Soft breezes caress the adventuring spirits reveling in this natural splendor. The swimming hole is a little ways up from the falls. It is a quaint space to spend some time basking in the sun and cooling off in the pool created by a make-shift dam.

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Once we feel refreshed we return to our campground to spend our final night at Lake Siskiyou. Our camp is lit by a perfect half-moon, an awesome array of stars, and the nebulous haze of the Milky Way; things hidden by our light polluted metropolis. We rest, and sometimes sleep. I open my eyes frequently to absorb the passage of the twilight sky, further imprinting memories of this wondrous place; hoping they will stay sharp until our next excursion into the flora of this beautiful earth.

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As we disembark the following morning, I am overcome with a great sense of hope. This trip has shown me how forgiving Mother Earth is. Though many have trod ill across her, we can make amends. The future of our planet rests in our hands.

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A special thanks to the National Park Service for curating these spaces which we enjoy so much. Happy 100th Birthday!

Shasta Selfie

 

Extraordinary Energy in You

Understanding our unseen selves is a pursuit long practiced by Eastern cultures.  In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the twelve primary meridians are well known and commonly taught. More than these twelve meridians exist and flow through us.  Yuichi Kawada’s “Essential Shiatsu: The Eight Extraordinary Meridians”, identifies and explains these pathways summarily. The author elaborates a comprehensive flow of yin and yang energy through the body directed by the extraordinary meridians.

As a practitioner of Shiatsu, this information broadened my perspective on the energetic flow occurring in the human body and helped me to understand the unending cycle of transforming energy circulating through us. When working with clients, I  use this knowledge to deepen the insight gained during a session and increase my awareness of the rhythms of my clients. An expanded knowledge of energetic movement throughout the human body improves the overall efficiency of its flow.

From a TCM perspective, the flow of chi revolves around the body starting from its most Yin zone in the front right foot. It accumulates Yang energy as it zig-zags to the left and upward from the right foot to left, up to the right shoulder and over to the left. It then travels to the back to become our most Yang aspect in the upper left region of the back. The Yang energy zig-zags downward gaining Yin as it flows to the back of the right foot.

Understanding this continuous movement of Qi in our bodies helps stay in tune with ourselves. When our lives are out of balance, this knowledge helps us identify where energy may be stagnate or blocked. We can direct our energy more ably as a result.

Below are diagrams of the extraordinary meridians. All images are courtesy of “Essential Shiatsu: The Eight Extraordinary Meridians”.

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