- Oct 10, 2018 at 4:03 am #3559204
. . . . . . . . . . . . !Oct 10, 2018 at 4:25 am #3559205
I’m not new to meditation. Sitting, walking, working, I’ve dabbled in many forms throughout my life with varying regularity/intensity. Now, however, I’m coming off the longest consecutive run of sitting/breathing meditation that I’ve ever done, combined with a technique that really seems to click with me. So far, it’s had a profound effect.
Starting it was mostly spurred by a bad bout of anxiety and insomnia, predominately spurred by heart arrhythmia issues I’ve been dealing with for many years, coupled with life stresses.
Regularity has been the key. I’ve done it long enough in the past to reap results, but nothing on this level. I’m finding that the real fruit lies in consistency, not for days or weeks, but for months. It takes significant time to begin reprogramming, likely more than most people are willing to stick with. Certainly more than I was willing to do in the past.
Results have been slow but steady over two+ months. Insomnia and anxiety have almost entirely subsided. Heart arrhythmia has been seriously reduced, even eliminated on good days (like today!). What’s interesting is that it didn’t feel like anything was happening…until I started realizing I wasn’t experiencing the issues I mentioned; in a sense I began to slowly forget I had them. I believe it all comes back to stress reduction, managing the sympathetic nervous system, and emotional centering.
Now I’m faced with somewhat of a conundrum, one that will no doubt work itself out; the longer I sit, the better I tend to feel afterwards. I’m curious to see what the threshold is, explore minimums vs. maximums, and while I enjoy longer sessions, even a few minutes seems to be worthwhile.
That this is a potentially powerful tool has been no mystery to me. But I seem to have made a serious personal breakthrough.
For whatever it’s worth, not sure how many of you practice.Oct 10, 2018 at 10:24 am #3559216
@iagoLocale: Boston & Galicia, Spain
I went bald at 13. So as you can imagine, my teen years were quite depressing. I mediated then for about 1 hour a day (who’s got that kind of time, right? Well, I did). But after college and lifestyle changes, I stopped the regular daily practice to the point that I eventually stopped practically all together. The last couple of years I have been thinking and progressively getting back into it, partly thanks to the push to bring mindfulness into schools and partly to current life’s stresses. I have several colleagues that start class with some sort of mindfulness practice, and I finally decided to pilot it this year. It’s been a bit over a month, and I just surveyed my students. It seems overall positive.Oct 10, 2018 at 10:44 am #3559217
Greg PehrsonBPL Member
@gregpehrsonLocale: playa del caballo blanco
My best friend in high school gave me a copy of Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums for my 18th birthday, which introduced me both to meditation and the mountains. I found a meditation group in college and meditated regularly throughout my time there, but found myself drifting away from regular practice as I convinced myself that “my work is my meditation”–that if I was truly present in what I was doing, I didn’t need to meditate. Which is great in theory, but I found that for me personally the emotional equanimity was lacking with this approach, and I kept coming back to sitting practice when times were hard. But it was almost like starting from zero each time.
The last several years I’ve connected with a meditation group and find that I really appreciate both the accountability and community of doing practice together a few times a month to encourage me to be more regular in my own sitting practice. Also, occasional half-day or day-long sitting retreats (also in community) help prime the pump when my well is running dry or my meditation becomes more sporadic.Oct 10, 2018 at 2:12 pm #3559235
Thanks for reporting.Oct 10, 2018 at 2:25 pm #3559240
Starting it was mostly spurred by a bad bout of anxiety and insomnia, predominately spurred by heart arrhythmia issues I’ve been dealing with for many years, coupled with life stresses.
I’ve never had the need to meditate. For me eliminating the daily stresses and anxiety many people experience has been the key, which also prevents insomnia. How to do this I really can’t explain how to do. But even if meditating helps, the sources of stress still lurk in the edges of one’s life eating away at the soul.Oct 10, 2018 at 2:52 pm #3559247
I both agree and disagree. As an extreme example, if someone has an abusive boss and opportunities to work elsewhere, then yeah, there are steps that can be taken to remove themselves from that scenario. If a loved one has a serious illness, then there’s no real honorable escape from that.
I highly doubt that it’s possible to remove all unpleasant stimuli from one’s life and perhaps that’s not a desirable goal. My wife and I are going through a lot of professional growth with both of our careers this year, which brings some stress with the change, but a lot of reward as well. I welcome it all and am excited to have new challenges to face.
What meditation does for me is improve and strengthen my response to it to where instead of stressing/worrying/being angered by X, it gives me pause to acknowledge it and move on.
Congrats if you achieve this through other means but I’ve found meditation to be helpful and healthful in my life.Oct 10, 2018 at 5:07 pm #3559266
What a difficult situation that must have been. Interesting you were drawn to it so early. As for school, it is a big buzz these days. I talk extensively about mindfulness in my classes; ceramics has the potential to be an excellent focal point for centering in the here and now…something many other disciplines are lacking. I think it’s a message that’s likely more important than ever, especially given the technology that our students rely upon is largely based upon the opposite of being present. I’m curious about what you’re incorporating in the classroom.
I bet we’d have a great conversation…I too was turned on to Kerouac pretty young, reading Dharma Bums at ~16. Which in turn also introduced me to Gary Snyder, who ultimately planted many of the seeds that still greatly influence me today. He was my introduction to Buddhism, outdoor poetry, meditation, all of it….
I think I fell into a similar trap, convincing myself that anything can be meditation. While this holds some merit in some cases, I’m finding the intentional act to be very important, lest we get very lazy with it. I’ve never belonged to a group but I do incorporate regular retreats. They’re typically solo backpacking trips but I do intentionally sit, breathe, and maintain a “silence” for most of them.Oct 10, 2018 at 5:25 pm #3559270
I highly doubt that it’s possible to remove all unpleasant stimuli from one’s life and perhaps that’s not a desirable goal.
Yes, difficult and perhaps impossible to remove everything. Stress builds up. Little things eat at us without us knowing. Back in ’77 I moved to the desert away from L.A. because the traffic was so bad for commuting (among other things). A year later I had to drive into L.A. to do some errands and I got a painful headache driving through the traffic… I rarely ever get headaches. And then every time I drove back to L.A. I got a headache — point being that these little things affect us and we somehow compensate, but don’t really overcome the stress. Add in family, job, financial worries, etc. and it becomes a compounded nightmare that we often mask, but all of it is still there stripping the humanity from our souls.Oct 10, 2018 at 5:31 pm #3559272
Nick….I don’t even know what to make of what you’re saying in this context. Simply eliminating stress is fine and good…if it was so simple. Some stresses cannot be eliminated; all that can be changed is how one approaches them. Forgive me if I’m interpreting you wrong, but your first response comes across as a bit glib from my vantage point. If there’s a quick and simple way to eliminate the stresses I’m facing, I’d love to hear it. Some background:
I’ve been dealing with heart arrhythmia issues for the majority of my life. As you know, I had a major surgery to correct atrial fibrillation about 6 years ago. I haven’t been the same since. Neither has my heart. Unfortunately the surgery that was supposed to fix everything wasn’t the end of things. I still deal with AFib, PVCs, PACs, and a myriad of other heart irregularities. My life is such that I am essentially waiting for my next trip to the emergency room, more surgery, and quite possibly medications that will potentially end my time in the backcountry. The arrhythmia gets bad enough on some days that I cannot sleep. It’s also resulted in significant anxiety and depression.
That’s the health side. One the daily life side, one of my children identifies as transgender. This has been a relatively recent transition (two years). My wife is Armenian, a traditional Middle-Eastern culture. She is struggling tremendously with accepting this. She is still extremely loving and supportive, but that does not mean she is not internally struggling. Severely. This has forced our family, myself included, to ask questions that are incredibly difficult, questions we never imagined ourselves facing. I’ll leave it to you to imagine the family dynamics that have ensued in a traditional Middle-Eastern culture, how well my child has been accepted (or not) by our own family and community. Holidays are coming and my child is no longer welcome in certain homes. My child was not welcome at a recent funeral. I am supportive of my child and therefor I cannot help but internalize the stress they are going through.
My intention was not getting into my own personal issues here, but sharing how meditation has been a game-changing factor in how I deal with some of what I’m facing. It is an opportunity to re-center, to get back into the present and away from the mind drifting to health and family worries that can otherwise become all-consuming. If someone’s life is stress free, more power to them. But it’s not my reality. I’m not ashamed to say that I struggle.Oct 10, 2018 at 6:20 pm #3559285
d kBPL Member
We took a mindfulness meditation class at Kaiser a few years back. My motivation was to try and quiet my scattered brain, which had been placed seemingly in overdrive while managing my parents’ final years – juggling a day job plus many high-end contract and freelance music gigs in my life, tons of doctor appointments, medication schedules and prescription renewals, and near-daily crises in theirs. Once they were gone, and I had retired from the day job, I still could not calm down my mind and focus (a state probably enhanced by the onset of menopause!). Larry and I try to meditate every morning for 15-20 minutes, and I think it has helped a great deal.
Craig, I did not know about your issues – I’m sorry you have to deal with ALL of that. I agree, meditation helps make it easier to deal with things you cannot change. For myself I’ve also found that it can allow oneself to step back throughout the day and realize that you are reacting to a situation in a way that is not helpful to yourself or others (anxiety, bodily tension, road rage – my personal favorite – and similar internalizations of stress).Oct 10, 2018 at 7:24 pm #3559301
Thanks d k.
I do think it should be mentioned that meditation shouldn’t only be reserved for stress management. It can certainly pay dividends in that regard, but like many things Western, I believe we use it in too prescriptive a manner, as a solution to problems as opposed to an end in itself.
In my experience meditation also has the potential to make a good day even better, to allow one to take time to step back, to let thoughts and feelings settle, and be more mindful about one’s emotions, interactions, and experiences. It needn’t only be a tool for the stressed, anxious, and depressed though this is often what leads people to explore it.Oct 10, 2018 at 7:52 pm #3559305
Nick….I don’t even know what to make of what you’re saying in this context. Simply eliminating stress is fine and good…if it was so simple. Some stresses cannot be eliminated; all that can be changed is how one approaches them. Forgive me if I’m interpreting you wrong, but your response comes across as a bit glib from my vantage point. If there’s a quick and simple way to eliminate the stresses I’m facing, I’d love to hear it.
Not being glib at all. Modern life can be very difficult. Here on Chaff it isn’t unusual for some folks to become emotional and stressed out over internet conversations; that isn’t healthy. Today, as an example, so many people have jobs they hate but can’t/don’t leave because they need the pay or have vested interests they feel they cannot give up… so every day they hate their jobs and often life in general, when perhaps they could focus on what is good about their job and life (assuming there is some good) instead of internalizing all the bad. There are many things that we internalize when perhaps we could mentally walk away… and of course some things we just can’t ignore. We have to deal with those things and how we do that is important to our mental well-being.
I’m not religious, but I like this prayer
God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change,
the courage to change the things we can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
The happiest person I ever met is Joyce. Everyone who knows her well will also tell you she is the happiest person they have ever met too. But life has thrown her so many tragedies, deaths, obstacles, roadblocks, water hazards and sand traps; and yet, somehow, she marches forward and anticipates each day with gratitude. I can’t tell anyone how she does it, because I really don’t know or understand what it is that drives her enthusiasm for life, but she has had a profound and positive influence on how I handle difficulties. I know we all can’t be like her, myself included, but we can all probably do better. It sounds corny, but some people are very good at “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Again, I am not trying to minimize the challenges anyone here is facing in their own lives.
I am not criticizing meditation or other means people use to balance their lives. Just pointing out that these methods don’t eliminate the root causes of many of the problems all of us face at one time or another. Also, modern living has so many little problems and stresses that if we take them in totality life may seem too difficult and overwhelming at times.Oct 10, 2018 at 7:56 pm #3559307
Another interesting facet to all of this is what I’m discovering about the role of meditation in heart health. The particular arrhythmia issues I deal with are congenital (so I’m told) and essentially involve bad wiring. The prescription for many of them is beta-blockers. I’m no doctor/scientist, but as I understand it, beta blockers essentially blunt the effect of the sympathetic nervous system (namely adrenaline) on the heart. My wiring is sensitive to adrenaline; it plays a big factor in triggering episodes. I’m naturally finding that rock climbing is pretty bad for me and often triggers episodes. Many of the issues I’m experiencing today were triggered after a long, hard day of climbing and very likely the adrenal response.
Anyhow, I’m finding that meditation can actually have the same “beta-blocker” effect, if you will. A good meditation session has as much effect on my heartrate/blood pressure as a low dose of Metoprolol Succinate (a beta-blocker) does. And it doesn’t leave me dizzy and unable to exercise. I’ve experimented with this. My cardiologist has been fascinated…as well as frustrated with my unwillingness to eat pills. We’re walking an interesting line together.Oct 10, 2018 at 8:00 pm #3559308
Thanks for writing back Nick, I totally agree; inevitably there will be things we cannot simply drop. That, for me, is where meditation has come in. Believe me, I’m a pro at not sweating the small stuff in life. I might’ve taken your initial tone wrong.Oct 10, 2018 at 9:03 pm #3559315
Nice post Nick. Joyce sound like an incredible ladyOct 11, 2018 at 1:33 am #3559341
@iagoLocale: Boston & Galicia, Spain
That is why the arts are so important! They give us a chance to dream, to be thoughtful and deliberate, to synthesize and so much more. I love the sciences, but a world without art can be rather bleak for so many of us. And let’s not forget shop! In my opinion there are many life lessons to be learn via carpentry, auto shop, etc. There’s nothing that will bring you to the here and now like handling a saw, shaping pottery or trying to frame that photograph just right.
As to my teen struggles, yes, they were hard. But if I am objective about it, it doesn’t compare to loss of family, illness, abuse and the myriad of issues we see people struggling with every day. Of course, subjectively, pain is pain. But in my case, despite my loss of hair, I gotta say I have been pretty lucky in life so far :) Now, I get to laugh about it. No hat hair ever! I can’t pull my hair when students try my patience ;D
With regard to mindfulness in school, I’m very lucky to be in a school where other teachers have been doing mindfulness for a couple of years and the administration is supportive of the initiative for its potential to improve student’s well-being. In the four years that it has been introduced, I have never heard of an administrator refer to it as loss of time on learning, although I must admit that certain colleagues see it that way. I’ll follow up via PM regarding how I’m implementing it in my class.
Besides the physical and emotional benefits of meditation/mindfulness, I also think it simply brings about clarity of mind. It helps visualize goals, the importance of “life tasks” and clarify one’s priorities. So I do not think it is just for those hurting.Oct 11, 2018 at 1:55 am #3559342
jeffrey armbrusterBPL Member
@bookLocale: Northern California
“I’ve been dealing with heart arrhythmia issues for the majority of my life. As you know, I had a major surgery to correct atrial fibrillation about 6 years ago. I haven’t been the same since. Neither has my heart. Unfortunately the surgery that was supposed to fix everything wasn’t the end of things. I still deal with AFib, PVCs, PACs, and a myriad of other heart irregularities.”
I can’t remember how much we might have talked about this. Like you, an ablation to fix my afib was ‘mostly’ successful but also introduced some new , less significant issues. In any case I’m happy that my afib has disappeared for many years but I an still on a very mild anti arryhthmia medication with almost no side effects.
I wanted to mention a site called StopAfib.org which is rare in that there’s a lot of very good info and discussion there about this condition. In particular I’ve learned how crucial the experience of the surgeon performing ablations turns out to be. If you end up deciding or being forced to have another procedure, there’s a lot of resources about highly qualified EP’s (surgeons) on that site, as well as other good stuff. As you no doubt know,a touch up second ablation is common and often is very successful.
And yeah I do centering prayer (basically the method in the “cloud of unknowing” which most people would think was classic Buddhist emptying meditation) twice a day and yes it really helps in a lot of ways.
Having to give up some parts of my life and identity because of arrhythmia issues has proven to be fodder for more discursive meditation as well! In the end I’m probably the happiest I’ve ever been.Oct 11, 2018 at 1:33 pm #3559360
Thanks Jeffrey.Oct 11, 2018 at 3:03 pm #3559369
Jerry AdamsBPL Member
@retiredjerryLocale: Oregon and Washington
thoughtful discussion, especially for the internet : )
I do meditation some. That makes sense that it is an end in itself, not just resolving problems.
Aerobic exercising can provide some of the same affect as meditating
Over-all my working career has been satisfying. Sometimes it was good, then a few key people would be replaced or the situation would change and it would become very stressful. Just changing jobs isn’t a very good solution – you don’t really know about a new job until you get in there for a while. You need to effect things to make them less stressful, and you have to deal with the stress like Craig said. In my opinion.
Maybe the most stressful was when things were going very good. Like when I did something successful that others acknowledged. I’d get these weird stomach aches like an ulcer.
My mom lost her mother and sister when she was a teenager. Then her brother in WWII. Then her father had a financial collapse and my mom lived with her uncle. That had problems. I think that caused extreme anxiety the rest of her life. It’s not always possible to just remove stress from your life.
I have a cloud with silver lining following me around. The TV will break and my wife struggles. I walk in and it just starts working. I have relatively little stress. Maybe it’s genetic or my mom raised us in the Beaver Cleaver family.
I left L.A. in 1980
Both Craig and Nick have good techniques that can work in different situations, not contradictory.Oct 11, 2018 at 7:25 pm #3559397
Diane PinkersBPL Member
@dipinkLocale: Western Washington
I’ve been dabbling in meditation for a while now, using the Headspace app on my phone. Easy to use when I’m by myself, but I find it hard to absent myself from my partner when I’m at home. My job takes me away from home so much, I feel guilty for taking myself apart. My own mental block, not a real excuse. It is hard to stop the internal dialogue, but I’m getting better at it.
I saw this TED Talk recently, about how to change your response to stress, and make it more beneficial. Maybe a little superficial, but an interesting perspective on it.
Perhaps that can also assist in diminishing the effects on your heartOct 12, 2018 at 3:15 am #3559451
That Ted talk makes sense to me.
I’ll try to use it this week.
For some reason the video quit at the half way point but I think I got the essence of it.Oct 12, 2018 at 2:01 pm #3559480
I’ll look at that TED talk when I get a chance Diane, thanks.
I don’t want to give the impression that everything is falling apart for me…partially due to what I’m talking about in this thread, things are actually going a whole lot better and are in balance.
Another thought concerning meditation regarding time:
I’m finding that the longer the session, the better. I’m hesitant to even mention time, because as it has been explained to me (and I agree due to experience), citing specific times runs the risk of getting into a guru-contest with people trying to out-meditate each other. If the goal is clarity, mindfulness, or becoming “centered”, time has little to do with it depending upon experience or that particular day.
That said, I typically sit for about 30-40 minutes/session. I’m finding this is a personal sweet spot. While I don’t watch the clock, I do use a timer. At what I guess to be ~1/3 of the way into a session I find things really begin to settle and time falls away. I get pretty focused on breath, thoughts pass without dwelling upon or noticing them, and I’m very much in the “zone” of simply breathing and being. And then the finish bell rings before I know it.
The biggest issue I could see for beginners is not making it through this initial settling period. It’s amazing how the mind and body rebel and want to do just about anything but quiet down. I would guess that a lot of people get turned off to meditation because they never make it through this initial settling stage, possibly expect too much, and essentially try and rush the experience.
Oct 12, 2018 at 2:40 pm #3559486
- This reply was modified 1 week, 2 days ago by W I S N E R !.
Thank you Craig and the others that have contributed to this thread. I don’t have much to add as far as practices or solutions but I am taking in what I read.
Craig, you are a man of profound wisdom and matching kindness. I only met you briefly but it came through. The example you are setting for your kids, including the ones in your classes, is priceless. I am searching for what to say that does not come across as either too heavy or not serious enough and the words just aren’t coming together well so this is all I have at the moment.Oct 12, 2018 at 3:09 pm #3559490
The TED talk reminds me of similar advice I got in a workshop many years ago. They used an example of how our emotional reaction to events can vary. Here’s the example:
Imagine you are walking down a dark alley. Thugs approach from both ends of the alley. What do you feel? FEAR
Now add to the story that you are one of the world’s most skilled martial arts professionals. Your biggest frustration is that you never get a chance to use your skills. What do you feel? EXCITEMENT
Let’s rock and roll!
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