Can You Walk this Path Alone?

There’s hope for the solo practitioner, even at the earliest stages of learning Buddhism

solo buddhist

 

Diving headfirst into anything all on your own can be daunting, and more of a challenge than most of us ever assume at the outset – but when you’re trying to make an earnest entry into something as all-encompassing and as ancient as Buddhism, going at it alone brings its own set of hurdles.

 

Thankfully though a lot of the frustration and anxiety that some of us feel when we begin to teach ourselves the path fades away after you simply get to it – placing one foot in front of the other and moving towards the ideals that Buddhism teaches.

 

Sure, those that start off with guidance are going to have a bit of an advantage in that they are likely following a traditional curriculum and will have assistance through the early transition into this new lifestyle. As an independent student however, you’re going to have to be disciplined and resourceful.

 

By embracing the road before you, recognizing that there is struggle in everything beautiful, and realizing that the lessons Buddhism has to teach you will come to you as you progress, you’ll be able to fight back against this spiritual gravity regardless of the volume of material you believe you have to push through to get started.

 

But committed self-study practitioners do have more flexibility and can set their own pace of learning. Not to mention freedom in choosing the source material and in what order.  Often, the solo practitioner is able to progress more quickly than matriculated students simply because they carve out larger blocks of uninterrupted time to study – as opposed to a scheduled hour with a teacher so many days per week.

It is of critical importance that you embrace the need for regular, routine, and proper scholarship as you begin to learn all that Buddhism has to offer. You’ll want to look into the different teachings of Buddhism, you’ll want to look into the different pathways to Buddhism, and you want to search for guides – physical, tangible, as well as mental and emotional – that have the opportunity to shine the brightest light of Buddhism on you.

 

It’s also important to remember that a true dharmic understanding of Buddhism is only going to unfold in three different stages

  • hearing (or reading)
  • contemplating
  • meditation

An intellectual understanding of the material that you are studying is only going to provide you with a framework of Buddhism. You’ll need to wrestle with the material, force it into your subconscious, and fold it into the very fabric of your personality while contemplating it as often as you can. Different life situations will obviously bring different teachings to the surface, and this is when you’re going to want to capture the moment, embrace all that contemplation has to offer, and spend time really trying to understand all that this lesson is promising.

 

Finally, you’ll want to spend time every day (ideally every morning and every night) looking for new opportunities to meditate on the lessons that you have been studying as well as the lessons that you have uncovered through your daily life. This time spent meditating on both the mysteries and the lessons of Buddhism will pay off significantly, especially if you are committing to master all that this spiritual pathway has to offer.

 

At the end of the day, there is a larger amount of research available to anyone and everyone hoping to study Buddhism today than ever before. On top of that, Buddhist lessons from a number of different experienced practitioners are available as well – many of them at your fingertips free of charge thanks to the reach of the internet – and it’s never been easier than it is today to self-study Buddhism.

 

Of course, it’s impossible to represent all the knowledge and lessons that Buddhism has to offer in a book, DVD, or YouTube series. Buddhism is, at its very core, something distinctly personal and something separate from our physical world and you’ll do well to strive to understand as much of this mysticism as you can along your path without fighting the fits and starts that are inevitable along the way.

dharma wheel

Scientific Studies Measure Mind-Body Connection in Meditation

Scientific Studies Measure Mind-Body Connection in Meditation

mind body connection

While some scientists are skeptical about the mind/body connection and consider it to be an element of pseudoscience, there is growing evidence which is peer-reviewed that shows a direct link in functionality between our minds and bodies.

 

A research group has devised a method of measurement of physiological phenomena which is connected to stress reduction that is based on mindfulness. According to their research, meditation helps to synchronize brain and heart processes.

 

There are actually quite a few reputable studies which prove that meditation has a tangible and positive effect on the human body. Scientists from Harvard published an array of studies which detailed the physiological and biological effects of meditation upon the brain and stomach.

 

If you’ve ever meditated for even ten minutes, you probably already know that it calms you and gives you a sense of being centered. It clears away negative thoughts and lets in peace and love. Scientific studies are explaining why…

 

Now, we’d like to talk about important data which comes from researchers at Hong Kong’s Centre for Buddhist Studies.

 

The director of the Centre told a reporter at Newsweek that the practice of MBSR (Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction) helps to create more synchronization between brain and heart, which is great for the body. Data from the study was published and peer-reviewed. The study lasted eight weeks and featured eleven graduate students who had no experience with meditation.

 

Studies such as this definitely underscore the wisdom of ancient cultures which encouraged meditation. Meditation is good for us!

 

Discover the Power of Heart Coherence

 

Scientific researchers at the HeartMath Institute are also studying heart-mind synchronicity. The Institute’s Director, Dr. Rollin McCarthy, has remarked that meditation which fosters a sense of compassion and love causes our hearts to generate measurable electromagnetic waves, which travel into local field environments. These waves make social coherence easier! When heart coherence builds, an energy field emerges which helps others to connect with their own hearts.

 

Is heart coherence the secret of global coherence? it may not solve everything, but it definitely won’t hurt.

 

How Does Epigenetics Factor In?

 

Epigenetics is the study of alterations in organisms which are triggered by a modification of “gene expression”. Epigenetics shows us that DNA and genes aren’t in control of our biology. Instead, DNA is controlled via signals which are situated outside of cells, which come with messages that are derived from our thoughts.

 

Bruce Lipton is a leading authority on epigenetics. He’s a cellular biologist. In his opinion, our feelings do regulate our genetic expression. He wrote about this interaction between mind and body in his books, Spontaneous Evolution and The Biology of Belief.

 

It’s interesting to note that the placebo effect is a facet of epigenetics (this is what Lipton believes). There will be great value in discovering the best way to leverage the power of the placebo effect as a treatment for illness.

 

A study showed that patients who felt nauseated chronically, in a severe way, were able to find relief via the placebo effect. They were told that they were getting an effective treatment for nausea and received a placebo instead (a “dummy pill”). The dummy pill was actually designed to make their nausea worse. Despite the properties of the dummy pill, the patients who received the placebo felt that it helped them. Basically, their brains decreased the nausea that they were feeling. This is startling as the dummy pills should have made them feel much worse.

 

Change begins from the inside. Lots of people on Earth are not happy people and their mindsets may negatively impact their health and the health of those around them. Mind-body connection is extremely important. Our feelings may indeed trigger physiological responses in other people.

 

We Need to Master Our Feelings

 

It would be helpful if schoolchildren were able to learn how to master (or just manage) their feelings at a young age.

 

During 1999, a study performed by a statistics professor who works at UC Irvine showed that people who take daily doses of aspirin for the purpose of preventing heart attacks had stronger results during paraphysiological experiments. Since these stronger results were proven, why are most scientific authorities so reluctant to acknowledge psi experiments?

 

It’s possible that many scientists are concerned about the link between the mind-body connection and magic, superstition and spiritualism. Lots of scientists are clearly more interested in staying far away from “pseudoscience” than they are with promoting scientific exploration. Hopefully, in the future, a new spirit of true academic freedom will prevail and the connection between heart and mind, as it relates to the individual and society as a whole, will be the subject of further study.

 

The studies that we’ve talked about today show that there is a strong mind-body connection and that heart coherence offers amazing possibilities in terms of helping groups of people to come together and get things done effectively.

Steps to Become More Mindful and Reduce Stress

Steps to Become More Mindful and Reduce Stress

mindfulness

These days, there are literally thousands of different mental, emotional, and spiritual methods aimed at reducing a person’s stress levels to make them a healthier and happier person. While each individual is unlike any other, certain techniques seem to work better. As one of the most successful ways to eliminate stress and become a more well-rounded person, mindfulness meditation has become a popular option by people from all over the world.

At this point, you’ve probably already heard about the efficacy of mindfulness. The rumors are founded on truth. In fact, there is no a mountain of evidence supporting the mental, emotional, and physical benefits of such practices. So, what is this method all about and how can it help you?

What Is Mindfulness?

Being in the present and bringing the practice to your everyday life is not as difficult as it may sound. Simply put, we’re talking about a change in your state of consciousness – the position of being fully aware of yourself and your surroundings. Modern dictionaries, such as the one from Psychology Today, define it in the following way:

{NOUN} – “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations…”

This state of being is often used as a therapeutic technique for trauma sufferers, and is commonly used by individuals who are not experiencing trauma as a means to deal with everyday stress.

How Does This Practice Help Reduce Stress?

Recent research has done a lot to uncover the benefits of mindfulness and its various techniques. According to a study performed at both the University of Oxford and the University of Massachusetts Medical School, this technique does more than simply reduce stress – it can actually transform a person’s perspective on the world around them. By practicing a tailored regimen, individuals were able to slowly build character on a foundation of internal strength that prevented future stressors to have such a negative effect.

What Does Mindfulness Look Like?

With so much evidence supporting the mental and emotional health benefits of this meditation techinque, putting it into practice as soon as possible is imperative. To get started, understanding what this mentality looks like in action is beyond vital. Here are some easily recognizable examples of mindfulness in effect:

  • You stop reacting immediately to certain situations, especially those that trigger your emotions.
  • You experience a moment of pause to consider the optional outcomes before you say or do anything.
  • You feel more relaxed and therefore less driven to get things done quickly and efficiently regardless of your current state.
  • You become aware of your internal monologue, allowing you to step away from any given situation to determine your true position before reacting.
  • Your body’s sensations become more recognizable, giving you early insights into undiscovered health problems.
  • You start to recognize the emotions of others more quickly and accurately.
  • Your ability to care and have compassion for others seems to increase, making it possible for you to sympathize with others before becoming stressed about the situation.
  • You begin to see your stress for what it is – a temporary problem that simply requires a well-thought-out solution.

Interestingly, being in this state helps to reduce brain activity rather than increase it. In short, it improves the efficiency of your mental focus, which in turn improves your ability to avoid stressful situations in the first place. With this new ability to streamline your thoughts and emotions, it’s possible to experience an increased sense of well-being, happiness, and relaxation.

Quick Steps to Put it All Together

There are a lot of ways to control your thoughts, emotions, and actions. However, some work better than others. The following is a 10-step meditation process that’s been found to be the most effective:

  1. START thinking about a workable situation in your life that’s causing you stress.
  2. Do not try to tackle a seemingly impossible problem. That will work itself out as you move through the steps of becoming a more conscious individual.
  3. TRY to imagine all the details of the situation that are making you feel uncomfortable.
  4. If it helps, try to picture yourself as if you’re currently in the middle of the situation instead of being able to meditate on it.
  5. SEE if you can recognize any sensations in your body and note where they are and how they feel.
  6. Check for an elevated heart rate, sweating, nausea or nervous stomach, or muscle tightness in your back or face.
  7. LISTEN to your body and mind, feeling each fully and taking note of any emotions that you’re experiencing.
  8. Become aware of the location your emotion is originating to recognize patterns in the future.
  9. BRING your mindful perspective to the emotion or stressor.
  10. Practice acceptance, curiosity, and warmth.
  11. PLACE your hand on the location of the emotion you’re experiencing (often referred to as “self-soothing”).
  12. Show care and concern for yourself at this time.
  13. ACCEPT the sensation for what it is.
  14. Try to feel it pulsate together with your breathing pattern.
  15. PROMOTE an awareness in the present moment and the positive aspects of it.
  16. Reduce the amount of attention being paid to the painful or negative emotions associated with your stress.
  17. STRUCTURE a new perspective which allows you to define your personal perimeter more clearly.
  18. Be careful not to compromise your moral foundations to accommodate the situation.
  19. END the meditation to face the world with a greater sense of awareness.

mindfulness