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Karen Maleck-Whiteley: Creative paths to meditation

live well, stress less

Posted: July 1, 2010 3:54 p.m.
Updated: July 2, 2010 4:30 a.m.
 

The challenges and pace of our modern lives create a habit of continually engaging with the outer world while we neglect — or even ignore our inner world.

This is not a new problem, but we do seem to experience it much more in our current culture.

We are conditioned to crave or even become addicted to the outward stimulation of our televisions, computers, movies, and phones. We have a hard time listening to our inner thoughts and feelings, and may never have learned the value of quiet time.

We often carry our outer life stresses over into the internal realm, and actually add stress to our lives by replaying issues and situations over without finding resolutions for them.

This is a natural tendency of the mind — it seeks to deal with pain and threat in an almost obsessive manner at times and it gets more and more insistent the more we try to ignore it.

One way to break this pattern is meditation. Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years in a variety of forms in many cultures. The goals of meditation are to learn to focus uncritically on one thing at a time, to let go of whatever is in your mind, and just be unattached, quiet, and calm for a time.

People who meditate regularly report many benefits, including:
- Enhanced ability to focus on the task at hand
- New awareness of the thought patterns affecting one’s actions
- Ability to create a state of deep relaxation quickly
- Increased ability to solve problems
- Reduced feelings of stress and improved health

How do I meditate?

It’s easy to learn basic meditation, but it does take practice. Classic meditation involves sitting quietly, breathing regularly, focusing on an object, a tone, a word, or the breath and cultivating a passive attitude.

This passive attitude is the most important aspect of meditation — the one which allows you to experience deep relaxation.

For a while, thoughts and distractions will enter your awareness. Simply note them and let them go, returning to your focus point.

These thoughts are not a bother — they do not mean anything for the time being.

If they are important, you will get them back later.

The point is to release them and come back to focus.

The passive attitude also means that you are not to be concerned about how well you are doing. Simply continue to notice and release distraction and thought, returning to focus.

By doing this, you will be uncritically experiencing yourself in the present moment.

Creative ways to meditate
If sitting quietly for 20 minutes a day just isn’t for you, there are other ways to develop the passive focus and reap the benefits of meditation.

Meditation to music or chants
A friend of mine tried meditation, but was really struggling to sit and be quiet for 20 minutes.

She found that if she listened to relaxing music, she could use that as her focus. She began to relax more and more, and now her 20 minutes flies by. She uses two CDs that are from Lifescapes (“The World Traveler” and “Meditations: Native American Flute”).

They are sold at Target stores and are available online. We also sell some wonderful music and chant CDs at Balance Point Spa. There are a million of them out there — use what works for you.

Walking
Walking has a long history in the sacred and meditation world. When you allow yourself to walk without pushing to arrive at a particular destination, and focus on your movement, breath, and the sights and sounds around you, the passive attitude is easy to achieve. Labyrinths are another wonderful way to walk-meditate.

A labyrinth is a design that is laid out in such a way that all you have to do is follow it.

There are no deadends, there is no frustration.

You just follow the path and it leads you to the center and back out again.

 By following the pattern, you can let go of thinking about what you are doing and get into the passive state through the rhythm of walking.

You can find labyrinths locally at Blessed Kateri Takewitha Catholic Church, 22508 Copper Hill Drive in Saugus, (661) 296-3180, or farther afield at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale and at the Peace and Awareness Gardens in Los Angeles, 3500 West Adams Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90018. Call for information and registration for events, tours, and walking the labyrinth: (323) 737-4055, www.peacelabyrinth.org.

Running
Like walking, running or any repetitive physical movement, when done for a period of time, can produce a wonderful passive, or even euphoric state.

When you run often enough and long enough, endorphins are produced in the body.

These chemicals elevate mood and enhance experience. You can run on your own, or join a local group like the Santa Clarita Runners (scrunners.org).

Drumming
Drumming is rhythmic and has been used by many cultures to induce mystical and trance states. It’s also a lot of fun to drum away in a group, get into the rhythm, forget what time it is, and go with the flow. REMO, a Valencia-based manufacturer of drum heads, holds a variety of drumming events open to the public, and they even supply the drums.

A good one to start with is the Community Drum Circle, held on Tuesdays. They also have drum circles for kids.

Check out the calendar of drumming events at www.remo.com/portal/events/index.html

Other methods
Any activity that allows you to let go of cares, thoughts and negative emotions is a good candidate for creative meditation.

Try different methods and find one or more that work for you. Here are some other great candidates:

Dancing — the Sufis have done it for centuries, and Raves are modern trance-inducing events.

You don’t have to attend a rave to get the benefits, just let yourself go and have fun dancing in your living room, or at a club.

Yoga — yoga breathing and practice are famous for producing focus, relaxation and beneficial physical benefits.
Gardening — getting in touch with the earth and cultivating living things feels great.

Needlepoint — even pro football players have used this for relaxation.

Floating in water — float in your pool, or draw a hot bath and just be.

You get the idea. Give yourself the gift of at least 20 minutes a day doing your chosen activity, and see what happens.

 Karen Maleck-Whiteley is a certified hypnotherapist, coach, speaker, author and co-owner of Balance Point Spa in Canyon Country, where meditation classes and sessions are held.

Call (661) 252-0650 or visit www.BalancePointSpa.com for more information.

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