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Thursday, February 12, 2015

MEDITATION AND THE MIND

This week's Time Magazine touts the health benefits of meditation exercises in helping children do better in school. Studies have shown that kids who participate in "mindfulness and kindness" programs are better behaved, less aggressive, and have fewer ADHD symptoms, meaning they are less antsy. Suspension rates dropped at participatory schools, and depression scores were reduced. The kids at one California school had more focus, participated more in class, and were more respectful to peers. The biggest buzz surrounded the 15% improvement in math scores, which translates into gaining at least one level in math.

Good news, this. In today's world, rife as it is with distractions, we need to set aside quiet time to turn the attention inward, focus on breathing and other physiologic functions, in order to de-stress. But mindfulness is a misnomer. The mind is a bundle of thoughts. To be full of mind is to be filled with its products, when in actuality the goal is to go beyond thought into the stillness that transcends time and space. Stillness as source of all that is, baby.

The article stopped short of explaining exactly what the children did to produce such laudable behavioral changes. In other words, exactly how to be mindful (or in this case mindless)?

In the words of one sage: "That which arises as 'I' in the body is the mind. Of all the thoughts that arise in the mind, the 'I' thought is the first. It is only after the rise of this that the other thoughts arise. By the inquiry 'Who am I?' the thought itself destroys other thoughts. When other thoughts arise, rather than pursue them or as so often happens get carried away by them, inquire: 'To whom do they arise?' As each thought arises, inquire with diligence. The answer to the question is: 'To me.' The mind goes back to its source, and the thought that arose will become quiescent. With repeated practice in this manner, the mind will develop the skill to stay in its source."

This is the essence of yoga.

As another sage writes: "There is a state of being experienced in Yoga in which we become a double consciousness, one on the surface, small, active, ignorant, swayed by thoughts and feelings, grief and joy and all kinds of reactions, the other within calm, vast, equal, observing the surface being with an immovable detachment or indulgence or, it may be, acting upon its agitation to quiet, enlarge, transform it."

The point is to start with a daily practice and extend this tranquility until it fills the day. And it's never too late to begin.

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