Nothing destroys one’s vitality, confidence and inner peace like chronic stress.
As a front line clinician I see the ravages of chronic stress on almost every patient I meet. Stress makes your immune system misbehave, it weakens your digestion, messes up your sleep and puts your liver and kidneys on overtime.
Both, common sense and modern medical research, can tell you that people who experience anxiety, depression, insomnia, addiction and chronic illness are the same people who describe their lives as ‘very stressful’. And, both common sense and modern science will tell you that meditation is an ESSENTIAL component to reducing stress and improving your health
I have been an active meditator for over 40 years. I can say, without reservation, that meditation is the most powerful resource that I have ever encountered.
Hands down, the best response to the stress in life and the stress of chronic illness is meditation.
Imagine for a moment some ancient mystic, shaman, healer, warrior, or philosopher. Someone you think of as having a pretty good grasp on reality. Now picture them closing their eyes and connecting to some inner reservoir, creating an alignment to a very refined state of being, a place that we all seem to know instinctually as a respite from doubt or worries, a place of wisdom.
The practice of meditation goes as far back in human history as the experience of being confused. The need to focus the mind and become very aware of our environment, and ourselves, is as old as survival itself. Meditation is the natural antidote for confusion and stress. The busier and more intense life gets, the more we need a way to come down or come back to our more deeply aware and contented self. This doesn’t mean we need to meditate one hour for every hour we are busy. Rather, that we need to relearn how to respond to stress and confusion, to respond in a way that allows us to feel content. Being truly content is different for everyone, but stress and confusion are universal, especially today.
A funny thing happens to your neuro-pathways, or the way your brain remembers you, if you keep repeating the same behavior over a long enough period of time. Some call it muscle memory, others call it adaptability. Either way, it is good to know that, with some focus and attention, anyone can tangibly improve their response to stress. This adaptive response is called neuroplasticity, the process your brain and nervous system go through when you learn a new skill or reflex.
Yes, you can learn to change your reflexive reactions to the world around you. And yes, that is a very big deal.
Why Ten Weeks?
It has been my experience, as an athlete, a coach and as a doctor, that there is a consistent ten week threshold, or barrier for both the athletes and patients that I work with. I started calling it the Neural-Rigidity wall. It turns out almost everyone who is training, cleansing, building muscle or burning fat hits a speed-bump in their progress around week nine or ten. Together,we are going to get through that first big hurdle together. Learn more about the ten week rule here.
What is Applied Meditation?
There are as many ways to meditate as there are minds who seek peace. Having said that, there are three very distinct branches of meditation to choose from. They are all essential to a complete and fruitful practice.
Just like the ancient Yin and Yang symbol, a complete meditation practice has an active/passive or masculine/feminine mode. Neither of these qualities is superior, in fact it is the balance of both that generates the most consistent growth and healing.
A mind can be compared to a TV screen, it will show you anything. If you choose presence, kindness, patience and compassion, you will see your life and the world around you that way. If you leave your mind (what happens on your inner TV) up to your programming, or the conditioning you received from your parents, friends, surviving high school and the famous people you look up to. Conditioning is a VERY powerful thing!
When most people think of meditation, especially with respect to the TV analogy, the objective is simply to sit, breathe, relax and wait for the screen to go blank – or at least show us images of God or some other source of Love and Enlightenment. It is definitely possible to have a clear and pure mind, to have visions that confirm our deepest Truths and Beliefs and to experience profound breakthroughs in our relationship with being and Sentient Being. Historically, those experiences are more likely to happen to those who life a monastic life.
That is not to say that only monks can become enlightened, just that those of us living an overstimulating modern life will have to focus on all three meditation styles.
An excellent example of the masculine and feminine characteristics of meditation goes like this. Consider the ‘Gods’ or Deities Krishna and Gaia. Krishna, a Hindu God, advocates cultivating a style of consciousness and meditation that looks a warrior with a powerful sword that can cut through all illusion and delusion. Stand strong, face your fears and demons while cutting through any thoughts or distractions. While Gaia, the consciousness ascribed to Mother Nature, has given birth to, and watched the annihilation of most of her children (98% of all species that have ever existed are extinct. Imagine a mythical and always pregnant mother giving birth to all that has ever lived, embracing the Beauty and the suffering equally and totally for all time.
Applied Meditation, as a distinct practice, tends to focus on the extremes as well as the balance between the masculine and feminine. The genuine and spontaneous moments of stillness, peace and clarity can be a refreshing respite from the ‘work’ of rewiring your Mind, opening your Heart and gazing into the vast depths of your Soul.
What Kind of Meditation works for you? Let’s find out together…
The Flow of Our Ten Week Journey
Our Journey begins with the tangible experience called Embodiment. We will learn some basic Qi Gong (chi kung) movements to explore what sensations you carry in your body. As we prepare ourselves for a dedicated Rite of Passage of Applied Consciousness, it only seems wise to check in with your somatic, or felt-sense experience of pain, exhaustion, past trauma, shame, worry, illness and rage.
With some gentle, fluid and repetitive movements you will become more aware of your posture, breath, focus and any latent emotion you are still holding onto. It is the most sensible beginning to a consciousness practice and will prepare you for the more challenging practices to come. And it feel AMAZING!
Our second practice will be standing meditation. Inner transformation requires inner resolve. If you feel that you are easily distracted or addicted social media, if you have tried to meditate in the past and get bored or feel that you are missing out, then a week or two of standing still is just the thing for you. After getting a feel for your bodies inner world, it is best to develop a gradual relationship with stillness. Standing meditation (zhan zhuang) is a perfect interplay between comfort and discomfort, or between stillness and stiffness.
Week three will introduce you to some seated meditation practices of Asia. You are encouraged to commit 20 – 30 minutes per day of sitting still, focus on your breath, your posture and your inner dialogue. There are many reasons why seated meditation is the most common form of practice. Sitting with poise, patience, relaxation and openness allows for a deep inquiry into the experience of being sentient. It is also the most medically studied form of meditation, so the proof of the benefits is abundantly clear.
Have you heard the expression, “Just let go!” Well, letting go is about the most active form of Spiritual practice there is. In Week four you will learn the fine art of releasing memories and habits out of your body, heart and soul while lying in your bed (or anywhere you like), getting ready for a nigh of deep sleep. Lying meditation is a gift to those who have a hard time falling asleep, as well as to those who need to release the past from their lives.
Our next adventure in Mindfulness is called an Awareness Frequency Practice. This is a real game changer for anyone who needs to maintain their calm throughout the day. There are many ways to explore this practice, but the most common approach is to find a place to become very still, both inside and out.
During our sixth week of learning applied meditation we will explore stillness in motion, or walking meditation. Movement, rhythm and flow are all it takes to dance. Walking meditation is very much like dancing, just in a Sacred.
Mastering your breath is like mastering any other skill. During week seven our focus will move towards breath-work. People who experience a lot of stress and pain, or those with poor posture tend to have restricted breathing. A theme that we will continue to return to is the awareness of how you remember yourself. Also, at least 80% of how you remember yourself is how your body experiences itself. As you improve your mind/body memory, especially how expansively and powerfully you breathe, your patients and confidence will also expand.
During our eighth week of deep inner transformation we will dip our toes into the deep pond of Shamanic meditation. We will explore three fundamental Shamanic practices. The first is drumming. Don’t worry, if you don’t have a drum there is an audio-file of just the right kind of rhythm to either play along with or just listen to. There is a mountain of scientific research on this practice, specifically a process called auditory drive. The second Shamanic practice is called Recapitulation. This is a process for reviewing and changing your perspective on your past and on the meaning of life. Nothing encourages compassion for others like compassion for yourself. The third practice is called Shape Shifting, and no you are not going to try and turn into an animal. We will, however, explore how the life-way of certain animals can guide you on your journey in life.
Week nine of our journey will ask you to meditate for an hour every day for ten days. You can choose any style of meditation that you have learned so far, or feel free to choose any style that is the most beneficial for you. If this doesn’t fit into your life, find room for this as soon as you can.
Our final week of learning together is called Coming Home to Your Self . This is a very important week for those who are still uncertain if meditation is for you. During your day-to-day life you will be asked to stay present to your sense of Autonomy, yours and everyone you encounter. During your meditation practice, again choose for the style yourself, you will be asked to explore the Daoist practice called San Bao – or the Three Treasures.
Take the Ten Weeks of Applied Meditation Course.
If you are looking to begin a meditation practice, re-awaken an old and stale practice or just try something different then this course is for you. Every week you will receive a recorded webinar describing the practices in detail, as well as a webinar the discusses the bigger picture, or the context of that part of the journey towards self awareness. Ancient parables, modern wisdom teachings and traditional First Nation’s teachings and stories will also be shared.
Bi-weekly there will be live calls so I can review where our focus needs to be. And, so you can ask any questions that may come up. As a community of peers, of people who choose meditation as a core life practice, we need to stay connected.
There will be a private facebook group so you can share your highs and lows while learning from the experience of others.
Available April 20th, 2017
There will a Certified Applied Meditation in September.