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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Throwing out the myths of....Meditation


While meditation practice is commonplace in my Tai Chi classes, I've been slow in implementing it into my Wushu and Kung Fu classes. Not because I don't think it is beneficial (I believe meditation is HIGHLY beneficial), but because I didn't think it was something my hardcore Wushu and Kung Fu classes *wanted*.

I know, I know....."teach what you feel is important for the arts, not just what the students want" you might be saying. However, many things popped up into my head, such as "What if the students think I'm trying to 'convert' them to some modality of belief?", "What if they think its too 'woo woo' or 'new agey'?", "How would I convince the die-hard 'kick ass and take names' students that love an intense workout, that meditation is as good for their body as the physical workouts?"

Truth is, I thought too much about what I thought the students *didn't think they wanted* as opposed to *what I know will be beneficial to their training!

So, students.....as much as the exercises, sweat, and toil are important to your physical fitness, meditation is just as important to your mental fitness as well. So, lets debunk some common meditation myths that might be holding you back from this great activity:

Myth 1: I have to be flexible enough to sit in lotus position for long periods:
Although some methods of practice do use the lotus position, you don't have to worry about tying yourself in knots to meditate. Meditation can be done while standing ("zhan zhuang"), sitting in a chair, while moving (as in Tai Chi), or even laying down (however, sleep usually happens after a while!). You can even "meditate" while doing your forms!

Myth 2: Meditation is solely a religious thing:
Sorry to bust your balloon, but it is not. While members in systems such as Zen Buddhism utilize meditation as a part of their practice, meditation itself is NOT solely a religious practice. While some people use the phrase "contemplative meditation" in reference to "prayer", that's just how their particular belief system might label it. However, not all meditation is prayer, so everyone...including Athiests, can benefit from meditation.


Myth 3: Meditation is all about chanting Mantras and putting my fingers together in odd ways:
The use of Mantras and Mudras are just but a few methods that people use while meditating, but are not used as the standard rule for all. Remember, there are many ways to meditate.

Myth 4: Meditation will allow me to get into altered states or give me special powers:
If your only goal in meditation is to get into altered states (much like with the use of drugs) or to attain super powers, then you're missing the point of meditation. To fixate on a goal too much, will take away the benefits if you get stressed out about not meeting a goal. While your mind may give you the sensation of floating, you're not flying. While you might see colors or images, unless you've already taken a drug, you won't "trip out". Does meditation change your brainwaves, though? YES. Scientific studies have shown that the brain undergoes changes from Beta (wakeful) waves to Alpha (relaxed physical and mental state) , and with some practitioners, to Theta (a state of very deep relaxation).

Myth 5: Meditation's goal is true enlightenment and connection to the Universe:
This is where many people think meditation is too "woo woo" or "new agey". Again, if you fixate on the goal of enlightenment you're being too goal oriented and will most likely become frustrated when enlightenment doesn't come (besides, how do you recognize it? Do you wake up one day and just say "Wow, I'm enlightened! I know the Truth!!"). One of my teachers once told me, that people tend to see others as "enlightened"....the enlightened person just goes on about his/her business, never bragging they've reached enlightenment. Any knowledge they have, is simply knowledge, and is normal to the "enlightened" person, not some big, fame-producing thing. So, apparently, if you say you're enlightened, you're really not, its just your Ego talking. Recognizing that you've reached one of many "A-ha!" moments is one of the perks of meditation....enlightenment comes when it comes.

Myth 6: I have to train myself to think of absolutely nothing to meditate:
Your brain will naturally form thoughts.....some you don't acknowledge, and many you do acknowledge. These thoughts are a natural result of our biases, beliefs, upbringing, experiences, expectations, emotions, etc. Many people mistake non-committal meditation as "thinking of nothing". In fact, when we say "clear your mind", we mean "don't attach to your thoughts, fears, concerns, etc". Acknowledge a thought, don't hold onto it, and let it go. Ever watch a DVD and think "Oh! Rewind that! I want to see that again!"?? That's what we do in our minds, many times a day......we hold on to a particular "scene" and replay it, sometimes over and over. Meditation is the opposite....we just watch the whole DVD without rewinding and without getting stuck on any one particular scene.

So...What IS meditation, anyway? It is a form of awareness. Some methods use mantras to focus their minds, some use relaxing music, some sit in silence, some may practice while walking and paying attention to the ground beneath their feet and how their body feels during movement, some may focus on the sound and sensation of their breathing.....there are so many ways to bring a relaxed state of awareness to the body. If you feel sleepy after meditation, then you just relaxed....you weren't "aware". While meditation does help the body relax (which is conducive to sleep), if you are sleepy after meditation then you were merely just going to sleep, not meditating. :)

The benefits are wonderful....less stress,more relaxation, refreshed mental state, broader outlook on personal problems, etc ....although I must point out, these are benefits to the practice, NOT the goal of the practice.

However, for those of you that are dead set on having a "goal" in meditation.....the only goal I can think of, is *well deserved time for yourself* !

I'd love to hear from the readers....Please add your thoughts about other myths of meditation, how your meditate, etc! Looking forward to hearing from you.

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Brainwaves and meditation: (Science Daily) http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100319210631.htm

Meditation research, scientific findings:  
http://www.researchingmeditation.org/

http://www.tm.org/research-on-meditation 

Scientific American: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=meditation-on-demand

International Journal of Psychophysiology: Study- "Effects of Transcendental Meditation practice on brain functioning and stress reactivity in college students" http://www.t-m.org.uk/articles/Effects of TM on brain functioning and stress in students.pdf         Alternate link: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6T3M-4TJX1PW-1&_user=10&_coverDate=02%2F28%2F2009&_rdoc=1&_fmt=high&_orig=search&_origin=search&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_searchStrId=1655236106&_rerunOrigin=scholar.google&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=00f67966ab7a3e263003abec5c2f3a84&searchtype=a


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4 comments:

Rick said...

Challenge your kung fu students to stand in zhan zhuang for 10 minutes and see how many of them are jumping out of their skins!

If you can't be still, how can you move properly?

Guzmán. said...

Jiddu Krishnamurti telling a joke...

“There are three monks, who had been sitting in deep meditation for many years amidst the Himalayan snow peaks, never speaking a word, in utter silence. One morning, one of the three suddenly speaks up and says, ‘What a lovely morning this is.’ And he falls silent again. Five years of silence pass, when all at once the second monk speaks up and says, ‘But we could do with some rain.’ There is silence among them for another five years, when suddenly the third monk says, ‘Why can’t you two stop chattering?”


http://www.katinkahesselink.net/kr/jokes.html
http://seaunaluzparaustedmismo.blogspot.com/

Crazy Eddie said...

Excellent article! What I like about meditation is that it is not affiliated with religion. Everyone can do it. In this regard, it has the power to bring people together. I like that. Yes, a lot of people have misconceptions about meditation but as long as it is presented in a non-religious way I've found that more people are open to it than I thought. Thanks again for the article.


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Zen said...

Excellent post Sister! Well put, doing Kung Fu is not All about kicking and punching. Meditation is the Yn to the Yang of Movement, Kung Fu any style is about balance.