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The Many Benefits of Meditation

Through the study of books one seeks God: by meditation one finds him. Padre Pio  Meditation, which began as a sacred practice thousands of years ago, has become mainstream because of its many benefits. I Googled “meditation benefits” and the first reference to meditation that arose was from the Mayo Clinic. They suggest meditation as a body-mind medicine and cite the following benefits: Gaining a new perspective in stressful situations Building skills to manage your stress Increasing self awareness Focusing on the present Reducing negative emotions I recall Goldie Hawn speaking about the benefit of two minutes of silent breathing meditation on The Oprah Show. Interested in accessing her research, I discovered a curriculum program she created with neuroscientists and positive psychologists for children utilizing mindful meditation. She calls it MindUp™ and is based upon the practice of mindful meditation. The benefits for this practice include: improved focus and concentration; increased academic performance; developed empathy; and increased optimism. Food Matters, an e-magazine, recapped the benefits of meditation based upon a research study conducted by Harvard scientists. They used a control group and a practicing group. They identified the following seven benefits of meditation: Increased immunity Balanced emotional states Increased fertility Relieves irritable bowel syndrome Lowers blood pressure Serves as an anti-inflammatory Increases calmness All of this is to say that meditation has benefits for your body, your mind, and your spirit. I entered into meditation practice to know The God Within. The Eastern spiritual teachers refer to God as Self with a capital S. To me this means the Presence of God as an Inner Eternal Singular Presence that is sourced by an individual through attention. My meditation practice is based upon focus. I focus upon breath, a question, a candle, or movement. It is through the single focus that I enter into a more vast Portal of God.    ...

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The Practice of Living Mindfully

Mindfulness began as a Buddhist, Eastern practice.  It is one of the seven factors of enlightenment known as “right mind or watchful mind.” One practices mindfulness by becoming awake to moment-by-moment awareness of present conditions and events. It is a practice of focus, observation, and acceptance. I learned to practice mindfulness on my emotional states. I had been an emotional stuffer, not allowed to be angry, sad, disappointed, and trained to be happy regardless of situations. Any feeling unlike happiness had to be stuffed. By the time I was in my late 20s I was filled with rage and deeply depressed. I happened upon Jack Kornfield’s book A Path with Heart. In this book, I learned the benefit of interviewing my emotional states. I learned to sit in meditation with the emotion currently within me and observe it. My intention wasn’t to change it, but to simply observe it. One emotion at a time I learned how they operated within my body. I taught myself to be mindful of my emotional states. This practice showed me I was the master of my emotions; they were not the masters of me. This shift transformed me. Mindfulness is being awake to wherever our attention lies. It can be mindful eating. This means awareness around what is being eaten, how often one eats, and any underlying motivation to eating. One can engage in mindful communication. This means being awake to the words used in a conversation, the energy that underlies the words, and the body language to accompany it. Mindful meditation is typically breathing meditation where the breath is watched. Mindfulness, then, is a practice of being open to the present moment without judgment. It is a regular practice and life is the backdrop for this...

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How to Do a Breathing Meditation

One of the simplest ways to meditate is to follow one’s breath. Since it doesn’t require  external support this can be done anywhere at anytime. To begin, practice sitting down with giving this practice your full attention. Find a comfortable place for you to sit for five minutes. Sitting up is preferred to lying down as most of us have trained ourselves to fall asleep when we are horizontal. Set your phone, alarm, or watch to five minutes. Sit upright, not learning forward or backward and with your head squarely above your shoulders. Plant your feet firmly upon the ground and feel the ground beneath them. Feel your feet upon the ground and the space where the two meet. Turn your attention inward toward your breath. You are going to follow the breath with your attention, riding the breath like a surfer rides atop a wave. Notice where the breath starts.; it may begin in the mouth or the nose. Follow the movement of your breath to your belly. Notice the movement of your belly is it in and out, up or down, or a combination of the two. This is not a mental exercise of knowing what is happening, this is an energetic practice following attention with breathing. Practice this for five minutes until your alarm goes off. Daily practice is essential. Commit to a thirty day practice and notice how your life changes with this practice. Begin with five minutes a day for the first week, and each week add an additional five minutes until the fourth week you are following your breath for twenty minutes. You may choose to say a prayer first and dedicate your breathing practice to a healing of some sort. This step is not necessary and sometimes it feels expansive to...

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Walking Meditation

The combination of body movement and mindfulness … is one I can get excited over. I have always been a big walker and when I practiced solitude and silence for years, walking became an essential part of integrating insights into my body and transmuting old thought energy that no longer fit my new emerging self. Motion was a necessary part of my shedding and opening. This insight brought me to reading what I could about the spiritual practice of walking. The Australian Aborigine are known to take Walkabouts which are ritualized walks within the desert guided by one’s intuition and the voices of one’s ancestors. These walks are a form of spiritual initiation as each step is symbolic of external as well as internal movement. This recognition has allowed me to walk out of my house and realize I am literally walking from an old level of consciousness into a new level of consciousness. Labyrinth walking has resurged in the past twenty or so years. Walking the labyrinth is symbolic of a spiritual pilgrimage and walking one’s way into the center of God. Throughout the world there are many different pilgrimages that religious people take as part of their spiritual practice. It is an obligation for a Muslim to travel to  Mecca as a demonstration of faith. For over 1,000 years individuals have walked The Camino in Spain, to end up at the doorstep of the Cathedral de Santiago to seek penance, enlightenment or arrive at the burial place of St. James. Originally the trek was from one’s doorstep to the Cathedral. Since this pilgrimage has become so popular there is now a route that is roughly 800 kilometers or 500 miles. In 2004 I traveled the country and Canada by car as The Forgiveness Tour. On my kick off, a friend gave me a book about the Peace pilgrim. I was taken by this woman’s commitment to peace. She chose to walk the United States to talk peace from community to community until peace would be achieved. My favorite poet Mary Oliver walks daily as part of her writing process. Julia Cameron recommends walking to increase creativity. Every aspect of life is and can be sacred. Intention is what ordains something as ordinary or sacred. I do walking meditations several different ways. Walking Mindfulness. Walking meditation as a form of mindfulness is walking without distraction and being awake to the sensory impact of the walk. I feel the weather upon my skin. I look at what I am walking by. I feel the ground beneath my feet. I listen to the sounds of the cars, trees in the wind, birds chirping, all of it. I am a walking sponge receiving and open to the stimulus around me.  The benefit to this form of meditation is the practice of opening, receiving, allowing. There is no fixing or changing energy, it is awareness of the well-being nature of life. Walking Contemplation. The difference between meditation and contemplation is meditation is about “isness” without agenda. Contemplation is taking in an idea, thought or energy allowing it to marinate within. I may walk out my front door with the idea of loving something that appears unlovable to me. While walking I feel into the love and I wrestle with a possibility I’ve...

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