An online friend asked about Transcendental Meditation. I work up writing. This probably 12 articles smushed into one. Final Draft will be totally different. Enjoy for now … I am noticing I didn’t really get to the part where I say anything about TM … LOL such is the way of the writer’s brain …
“My current thought, the one I am thinking now, is totally under my control”. ~ Louise Hay
Is that true? Yes, and No. The ultimate answer is yes. The real answer for you in this moment may be a resounding “no stinkin way!”.
We are stated to have 4 types of Brain Wave patterns. Alpha, Beta, Theta, and Delta. They aren’t really states though. They are a vibrational spectrum of Fully Alert down through Deep Deep Sleep.
Alpha is where we tend to spend our waking brain time and includes Fight/Flight/Freeze survival modes and skills.
Delta is a deep deep state that, for most humans, rarely occurs outside of sleeping and spectrums all the way down to being in a coma.
Theta is pretty deep – most people have a difficult time staying awake.
Beta vibrates somewhere between Waking-Alpha and Theta – you are open and receptive to outside input, the cognitive filter is down, television tends to be the place we practice this brain spectrum most frequently, so depending on preferred channels, we are often practicing feeding our brains unfiltered garbage.
Beta, Theta, (and for some people portions of the Delta spectrum) are where brains hang out during Meditation, Creative Flow, and Healing sessions.
Ken Wilber has been meditating most of his adult life and has mastered the brain spectrum such that he is able to control it. Certainly he’s not the only one, but it’s the link I happened to know of. !!! link !!!
Stillness Styles of Meditation
Sitting quietly with your legs contorted into a pretzel chanting “ommmm” is a common vision of what meditation looks like from the outside.
Some styles have you watching your every thought float by as if it were a river and you are soft-eyed staring at one location on that river. Not following any thought, just watching them as they move past you.
Some styles have you cease thinking altogether. They ask unanswerable questions to quick-stop the thinking mind.
What is the sound of one hand clapping?
Show me the face you had before your parents were born.
!!! more examples? !!!
Some styles have you place all of your attention on a mantra or sound. Sometimes it is spoken aloud. Sometimes it is repeated over and over in your mind.
Some have you placing all of your attention on the breath. Sometimes the natural breath, sometimes specific breath patterns.
10 count inhale, 10 count hold, 10 count exhale, 10 count hold
in through the nose, out through the mouth
inbreath twice a long as the the outbreath
breathing in to a location in the body
The masculine aspect of our brains, the Hunter sitting quietly waiting for dinner to happen by, loves stillness meditation.
Movement Styles Meditation
Walking until you are fully present in the walking and the mind enters Beta/Theta.
Swaying gently to your internal resonance.
Inner listening to the body, moving as it wants to move.
Performing massage, performing Reiki, Energy Work, Shamanic practices.
The flowing feminine aspects of our brain love movement meditation.
The Point of Meditation
Meditation is an easy thing to start doing, beat yourself up over it, and stop the practice because you have enough self esteem to realize daily beatings are no way to live.
People get caught up in trying to find the on/off switch, turn their brains “off”, and thus master the mind.
That is a false-lead. You are comparing your version of chopsticks on the piano to people who have spent much of their waking lives mastering the instrument and are now well into their 60’s. I’m sure there’s at least one exception out there, but for the other 7 billion of you, you won’t be siting down at the keyboard for the very first time and be sharing Flight of the Bumblebee perfectly with the world.
There are inherent dangers in “turning off the mind”, that I touch on later.
The point of meditation is training your neuropathways. If you sit in meditation for an hour, and notice your mind on other things, and return it to the meditative practice at hand, you have succeeded in re-enforcing the desired neuropathway. This is a successful meditation. Don’t take my word for it. This is what the Masters and Teachers all have to say about it.
Leap for Joy in your success.
Our skin is fragile compared to that of a shark. Our bodies are slow compared to that of a cheetah. Our body hair is pretty worthless against the Antarctic Winds when you compare us to Mrs Polar Bear. As a species, without our savvy minds, we’re kinda vulnerable.
Historically, we are alert to danger. A portion of our automatic brain is hardwired to scan for danger, alert us to the situation as soon as possible, so we have as much time as possible to follow the dictates of our DNA – keep safe, stay alive, and procreate.
Have you ever walked through your home and suddenly realized how dirty or messy it is? How did you live like that before that moment? Easy. The brain tuned out “same-same” because “same-same” isn’t very interesting to DNA’s dictates. The was no inherent danger, other things were more important, and the visual input stayed at a lower priority long enough to be forgotten/ignored.
Our vulnerability is the reason for the “monkey-mind”. Without monkey-mind thinking up ways to climb trees, create shelter, and outsmart nature and the animal kingdom, and create comfortable lives for ourselves, we’d have become extinct long ago or still be living in caves.
In our safe comfortable lives, we are still looking for danger. And when you ask your brain to look for something, it scours it’s database of wisdom and your present surroundings to bring you answers. We are safer than we have ever been. Ever. It is insane how safe we are compared to, say, the days of the Black Plague, or the Great Potato Famine.
Stress, anxiety, fear – these are all symptoms of “danger-scan” brain having well trodden neuropathways. The more we find ways to enter those states, the more neurpathway “in” we create and re-enforce.
Living like that – some people thrive and love it. For the rest of us it sucks big ass donkey ballz and we want another way.
Meditation trains the brain to step out of the well troden danger-scan neuropathways. But you still have all the in-roads. So it is really only useful in stepping out of them.
What do you step into instead? This is the stuff of the positive psychology movement. Gratitude practices, Martin Seligman’s famous “what went well and why” question, journaling on how you’re going to use your Signature Strengths this week and today. Flourish, Engagement, all of these practices.
Traditional psychology took us from -10 to 0 and sent us on our merry way. Except that zero isn’t exactly “merry”. The emerging field of Positive Psychology, although the term could use some re-working, asks “how do we get from 0 to 10? hmmm, yes, that seems small, what if we can get to 100, or one thousand?”
The Dangers of Meditation
Aside from roaming the planet with your brain “off” unable to move or accomplish anything, there are some Mind Dangers the go hand in hand with meditative practices.
It has become somewhat common practice to use meditation and enlightenment practices as a tools of avoidance. Someone has labeled this practice “Spiritual Bypassing” – attempting to avoid less than fun emotions by “being spiritual”.
“omg I’m feeling sad or angry! I must get out of this bad place!” This is the stuff of alcoholics, drug addicts, and spiritual bypassers.
And they certainly have a point. Hanging out in “yucky” emotions, wallowing for days, letting them consume the mind and take over your life is a terrible life plan.
Remember all those guru’s for the 60’s & 70’s? The Enlightened Ones that “fell” because they were terrible terrible humans? This is the stuff of spiritual bypassing.
Avoiding shadow makes shadow stronger. Wandering the planet in enlightened states makes shadow bigger. Combine the two, and your big strong Shadow is going to kick your ass in a big strong way.
The Dangers of Positive Psychology
When we skim Martin’s first book, “??”, and skip the part about the warnings, we end up with a spiritual bypass we “think” is backed by neuroscience. I can assure you, it is not.
The perceptions we take regarding Permanence, Personalization, and Pervasiveness require a balanced approach.
It is just as dangerous to perceive the Positive in a permanent, personalize, pervasive way as it is to perceive Negative in a permanent, personalized, pervasive way.
Acceptance of What Is Arising
This gets twisted and contorted into all sorts of ridiculous meanings. People grab the headline and pay no attention to the details. “Feel the feeling”, “go into the feeling”, “converse with your inner child”. Contorted Poppycock. The original meanings and intentions were fine. We stuff them through the meat grinder of our perception and create all kinds of ridiculous un-meant meanings that keep us stuck and trapped in our paradigms.
Do You Want Out?
Part of you wants to keep things exactly as they are. It’s working. You’re alive. Mission Accomplished. Stop whining and be happy you’re alive.
Part of you is desperate for change. It’s working? kinda … not really … are you freaking kidding me?! I deserve far far better than this!!
Sure, some people adapt well to change.
And we sometimes want to kick their asses. Especially when they decide “their change” is “the best change” for all 7 billion of us. More poppycock. There are 7 billion “what’s right for me” answers. The more humans we make, the more answers arise.
Some develop an unnatural fear of things staying the same.
H2O for example. We’re kinda dead without it. It’s kind of a good thing H2O remains a constant (given our present bodies and how they function on our present planet).
The rest of us have to trudge through the Stages – denial, anger, depression, ???, to get to acceptance. Every freaking time.
Some become super savvy about opt-ing out. The twist and contort and maintain the earth is flat because it “looks flat from here!”
We are a tricky bunch, us Humans and our amazing minds, aren’t we?
Stress, Anxiety, Fear – what do you do?!
Change Your Physiology to Support Your Change Of State
That’s nice. How? This is the stuff of Tony Robbins, Richard Bandler, and John Grinder. You’ve probably heard of Tony. Richard and John are the forefathers of tools Tony teaches.
Breathe. We’ve all heard “fear is excitement without the breath”, “when you’re angry, count 10 breaths”. They stick around because they help.
Oxygen is your friend. Without it, you die.
Fear, Stress, Anxiety tend to create constriction in the body and breath. “Take a nice deep breath in, and let it all go.” (If you’ve been on my table, you’ve probably heard my singsong voice saying those words a time or two. I”m usually working with your rib-cage at that point, and I need you to meet me from the inside to affect physical change.)
You Brain needs Oxygen and lots of it. Big breath in, nice full exhale = brain food.
Anxiety, Fear, Stress – these little bastards are trying to keep us safe and alive. They need to receive the memo “thanks guys! super appreciate the message. We are totally safe and totally alive … physically.”
Emotionally? Well, that’s usually another story. This is a source of massive communication breakdown between humans. Physically Safe vs Feeling Safe. The Mafia movies where the Physically Safe macho mafia leaders insistence on sitting with his back to a wall with full view of the entrance to Feel Safe and secure in his happy little mafia world.
What do you need to feel safe and secure in your happy little world? This is important. This can also be carried too far. Knowing your goto’s is a great tool. But what if you are out and about and unable to reach your security blanket?
“Feel the fear and do it anyway”. This book title sat on my bookshelf for years. A constant reminder that fear is a natural set of sensations flowing through my body from time to time and is in no way required to affect the doing of a thing.
You always have your breath. It’s automatic and controllable. This is a rarity. Usually the body keeps you out of the business of automatic functioning so you don’t spend your days focusing all your energy and attention on every internal organ performing their tinest tasks to keep you alive.
Without oxygen, you die. Inhaling underwater, you die. The body-brain gives us a manual-override when it comes to the breath.
Take advantage of this feature! Use it to shift the body’s state.
Ok, so I’ve got oxygen flowing to the brain so my Solutionator can thrive. Now What?!
Ask Quality Questions
You’re in the proverbial quicksand. Asking ‘how am I going to die?’ ‘what is dying by quicksand going to feel like?’ are really poor questions to ask if your goal is to stay alive.
Your brain wants to serve you. It will do it’s best given all the data within and from all your current surroundings to give you answers.
What are 5 questions you could ask instead? What would serve your goal of staying alive? of overcoming? of thriving?
Ride the Emotion
Stress, anxiety, fear, joy, love, happiness, enjoyment, pleasure, delight – when you break it down these are neuro-chemicals creating sensations in the body and mind. That sounds awfully cold and flat and takes all the emotion/fun out of it! It is also a useful tool.
Knowing what is going on is useful.
Taking 5-45 seconds to watch the sensations generated by the neuro-chemicals is even more useful.
Color, shape, sound, texture – noticing the qualities of the sensations and ignoring any brain attempts to assign an emotive “label”. Three common endings – you get bored and wander off mentally, what you are observing dissipates on it’s own, what you are observing leaves your body.
You have successfully Ridden the Emotion. Emotion is motion. It wants to move. Holding, stopping, avoiding, setting aside for later creates Shadow. They are also useful tools. This is the stuff of leaping into traffic to save the baby and then emotionally processing the experience later. Make time for “later”, it will serve you well.
And guess what? You just performed a 45 second meditation practice that avoids spiritual bypassing of what is arising. Woo Hoo!
There are many other practices and tools. Some are best learned by a practitioner guiding you through them a few times until you get the hang of it.
Look for practices others model. I had a friend who was working on her negative self-chatter when something went imperfectly. She developed a cute little “woopsie!” phrase, much like you would say to a child to small to have a sense of knowing better. It was a gentle, loving way to allow herself to accept What Is.
A second ago. That is the past. It cannot be undone.
Find the space between past and future. The vastness between the subatomic particles. The silence between each word.
Notice how your mind and body shift when you directed your attention to accomplish those missions.
The Point Of Meditation
The more time you spend out of monkey-mind, the easier it is to access that place. Meditation is one way to get you there. Closing your eyes and moving to the music, playing with children, watching the ocean waves, walking through the forest, gazing at a flower, cuddling with a beloved pet – there are many many ways to access the mindful-mindless state.
Name some of those ways for you.
Invent reasons and routines to access them often.