Meditation is often something thought of as a practice reserved for monks or the spiritual elite. Happily, this is far from the truth. It’s been said that there are many paths up the mountain of meditation. We are living in a time where the mountain is closer and more accessible than it’s ever been. With the presence of the Internet and the ever-expanding global village, we have access to many paths that were far beyond reach only years ago. The seeker today has access to an unlimited wealth of information. With the click of the mouse you can access meditation techniques that are commonplace in remote parts of the world.
A really cool thing about living in our time is science and spirituality finding common ground. Today we have the science to quantify the benefits of meditation that the practitioner previously had to take on faith alone. Western medicine has traditionally shied away from mediation as a “prescription,” but now that there is concrete, scientific evidence proving the benefits of meditation, we are seeing the mainstream medical community look to mediation as a viable treatment option for a number of conditions and illnesses.
Let’s take a quick look at what science has shown us about our brainwaves: Every day, your brain is constantly operating on various wavelengths. While you are awake and interacting with others, you are in the Beta wavelength, at about 14 to 30 cycles per second (or hertz). When you get into the Alpha waves, you are still alert and paying attention, but get into a relaxed and calm state while your brain is at 9 to 13 hertz. When you get even more relaxed—and sometimes zoned out—you are in the Theta waves at about 4 to 8 hertz; we call this the meditative state. When you go further into a deep sleep, you are in the Delta waves at 1 to 3 hertz.
When it comes to dealing with stress, in many ways our brain is operating on the same basic circuitry as our ancient ancestors the cavemen, with a primal “fight, flight, or freeze” reaction to stress/danger. Our caveman brain can be triggered by stress—even perceived stress that may or may not be real—with a primal: “Oh my God! I’m being chased by a saber-toothed tiger!” Cortisol and adrenaline are then pumped into our systems, we experience a rise in glucose levels, and we are able to flee or fight the danger. If we take flight or fight, our bodies break down those chemicals— this is the original design of the flight response. When we are stuck in this position, all of our rest, digest, repair, and reproductive systems take a back seat to the emergency.
Unfortunately, the reality of our modern lifestyle is that most of us are sitting at a desk being chased by something like a deadline or the perceived danger of job loss (not by an actual saber-toothed tiger), but our brains react much the sameway and those chemicals in our bodies turn into figurative shards of glass when they’re not being burned off by exercise.
So, how do we dissolve those shards and deal with the stress? There are many ways to do this, while exercise is one of the best ways to burn off the chemicals once they are unleashed, meditation is one of best preemptive methods for staying centered and being able to ask ourselves “Is this really a saber-tooth tiger chasing me?” We’ll talk later about slowing down our thoughts, but first, let’s look at how that meditative state in the Alpha/Theta brainwave pattern brings our bodies and some of those chemicals back into balance.
Meditation: Access Deep Peace - Kitagawa Utamaro, Komuraski of the Tamaya, House After a Bath, 1795
When you meditate, you body releases DHEA (a chemical that promotes relaxation, memory, and reduces cardiovascular disease risk), serotonin levels rise and your blood pressure starts todrop. In meditation you are completely awake and alert, but at the same time still and quiet, coming into full consciousness of the present moment. Meditation brings us to a depth within ourselves where we can access our inner compass and our deep, inner calm: that place of peace and awareness we already have.
Take this metaphor by David Fontana, PhD: The sky itself is our true nature and true self, but there are clouds in the sky obscuring our view. The clouds represent our “monkey mind” or our constant mental chatter. In our normal Beta state, the clouds of our thoughts, worries, hopes, and fears are continually obscuring our view, and it is all but impossible to see the sky for what it is. Meditation is our tool to clear away the clouds and experience the vastness of the sky, and the vastness of our true being.
adapted from Natural Solutions Magazine, by Jill Englund, April 2011
Use our unique “Zen Clock” which functions as a Yoga Timer. It features a long-resonating acoustic chime that brings your meditation or yoga session to a gradual close, preserving the environment of stillness while also acting as an effective time signal. Our Yoga Timer & Clock can be programmed to chime at the end of the meditation or yoga session or periodically throughout the session as a kind of sonic yantra. The beauty and functionality of the Zen Clock/Timer makes it a meditation tool that can actually help you “make time” for meditation in your life. Bring yourself back to balance.
timers for finding balance in your life
Now & Zen – The Zen Clock & Timer Store
1638 Pearl Street
Boulder, CO 80302
Posted in Meditation Timers, Meditation Tools, mindfulness practice, Well-being