Editor's Note: Welcome to the Department of Meditation, where you are treated to the ageless wisdom and inimitable wit of our very own meditation guru, Constance Wilkinson, psychotherapist and card-carrying Buddhist.
Constance welcomes your feedback and questions about meditation at email@example.com
Department of Meditation
by Constance Wilkinson, LMHC, MFA
Meditation: Yo, What's the Point?
So here you are, reading.
Apparently, you're sufficiently interested in the subject of meditation to at least begin reading an article in CapeWomenOnline called "The Department of Meditation." What is it that you want, really? Change? More of the same? Relief from suffering? Brighter mood? More creativity? More happiness? Less misery? Something different, you're not sure what?
The benefits of meditation are well-recognized these days, including (but not limited to) promoting relaxation of mind and body, reduction of stress, improving physical and mental well-being, even "turning on" genes; some studies have shown that meditation practice can change actual structures in the brain, suggesting the power of mind over matter may be just precisely the way things really are.
University of Wisconsin neuroscientist Richard Davidson, Ph.D., has studied and documented these changes, and stated in an interview, "We all know that if you engage in certain kinds of exercise on a regular basis you can strengthen certain muscle groups in particular ways. Strengthening neural systems is not fundamentally different. It's basically replacing certain habits of mind with other habits."
Sounds promising, doesn't it?
No need for some big deal spiritual trip.
Just a tiny bit of meditation.
Harvard psychiatrist Herbert Benson, M.D., an early proponent of what became known as "Mind-Body Medicine," was one of the first to discover that some simple types of meditation work as methods to elicit what he called "The Relaxation Response," naturally lengthening breathing, lowering blood pressure, decreasing heart rate, decreasing muscle tension.
Benson's program of relaxation-oriented meditation has been studied for decades. Relaxation-response meditation has proven effective at alleviating a variety of conditions such as anxiety, heart disease, depression, infertility, GI disorders, and chronic pain.
Benson's technique, as taught at the Benson-Henry Institute, is this:
Pick a focus word, short phrase, or prayer that is firmly rooted in your belief system, such as "one," "peace," "The Lord is my shepherd," "Hail Mary full of grace," or "shalom."
Sit quietly in a comfortable position.
Close your eyes.
Relax your muscles, progressing from your feet to your calves, thighs, abdomen, shoulders, head, and neck.
Breathe slowly and naturally, and as you do, say your focus word, sound, phrase, or prayer silently to yourself as you exhale.
Assume a passive attitude. Don't worry about how well you're doing. When other thoughts come to mind, simply say to yourself, "Oh well," and gently return to your repetition.
Continue for ten to twenty minutes.
Do not stand immediately. Continue sitting quietly for a minute or so, allowing other thoughts to return. Then open your eyes and sit for another minute before rising.
Practice the technique once or twice daily. Good times to do so are before breakfast and before dinner.
Constance Wilkinson, LMHC, MFA is a licensed psychotherapist who uses a mindfulness-based, solution-focused approach to help reduce symptoms of dysregulation, as well as to develop clients' personal goals and strategies to achieve them. She is trained in EMDR, clinical hypnosis, EFT, and expressive arts.
She has an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College in creative writing and an MA in clinical mental health counseling psychology from Lesley University. Since 1978, Ms Wilkinson has been practicing meditation and studying with distinguished Tibetan Buddhist refugee teachers in the United States, India, Nepal, and Tibet.
Constance Wilkinson can be reached at 508-648-8105 Or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Constance Wilkinson, LMHC, MFA