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Monday, December 17, 2012

You can afford to relax

"If a person can really relate to the simplicity of the practice of meditation, then automatically there is an absence of aggression. Because there is no rush to achieve, you can afford to relax. Because you can afford to relax, you can afford to keep company with yourself, be friends with yourself. Then thoughts, emotions, whatever occurs in the mind, constantly accentuate the act of making friends with yourself." Chogyam Trungpa

Friday, December 14, 2012

Set your hostage mind free

I read an interesting article today on how to deal with an angry person at work, all of which should sound pretty familiar to meditators. I was particularly struck by this:

Active listening is the first thing FBI hostage negotiators use to de-escalate incidents and save lives.
BCSM consists of five stages: active listening, empathy, rapport, influence, and behavioral change. Progression through these stages occurs sequentially and cumulatively. Specifically, the negotiator proceeds in sequence from Stage 1 (active listening) to Stage 5 (behavioral change). However,in order to establish rapport (Stage 3) with the subject, active listening skills (Stage 1) and empathy (Stage 2) must first be demonstrated (and maintained throughout) by the negotiator. As this process continues, influence (Stage 4) and behavioral change (Stage 5) follow. The latter stage refers to the successful resolution of the crisis that can only occur when, and only when, the previous stages have been carried out successfully.
That's pretty similar to the way we learn to work with our minds in meditation.

We listen. By focusing our attention on the breath or another object, we create calm.

We accept all thoughts -- emotions, nursery rhymes, shopping lists -- as equally impermanent and ephemeral.

We take a friendly approach. No thought or emotion is unacceptable. We became friends with our minds rather than judges.

We influence our minds by setting intentions: To be kind. To speak gently. To be patient. To notice when someone needs help and give it. To appreciate when we are helped.

And by turning our thoughts, behavior changes follow.

Our hostage minds can go free.



Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Taking down the wallpaper

"We possess what is known as basic goodness. Then we develop an overlay of unnecessary tricks and occupations. We develop little tricks to shield ourselves from being embarrassed or from feeling too painful or naked. Those are habitual tendencies, but they are not fundamental. They are simply temporary habitual tendencies. It's as though you had a building with nice, white, smooth plaster walls. If you can't stand the plain white walls, you might decide to put colorful wallpaper on top of them to cheer yourself up. The habitual tendencies we're talking about here are like the wallpaper that you put on but can be taken off. The paper doesn't go all the way through the wall; it's not that deeply ingrained. It's a veneer of some kind, called habitual tendencies- which have to be renounced, definitely. Seeing the basic goodness in oneself and seeing the sadness of the setting-sun possibilities, one is willing to make some kind of sacrifice. We can take off the wallpaper, take off the veneer." ~~~ Chögyam Trungpa, Great Eastern Sun

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Is meditation the new Viagra?

If you follow news on science and meditation on the Internet, you might believe that meditation is the new penicillin, a wonder drug that can create most of what ails you. Research studies show it has benefits for those who suffer from anxiety, high blood pressure, digestive problems, etc etc.

So the headline "Meditation Increases Sex Drive" seemed like more of the same -- evidence that meditation is just generally good. (It's also kind a duh. Ask anyone who's gone on a prolonged retreat what sitting on the cushion thinking -- or not thinking -- does for your sex drive.)

Yahoo Lifestyle's Sex Tip of the Day reports:

According to researchers at Canada's University of British Columbia and Israel's Hadassah University Hospital, just a few sessions of meditation can boost your sex drive and speed arousal time.

The researchers measured the reactions of 24 women who were watching an erotic film, then measured for a second time after they attended three 'mindfulness' meditation courses.

Even though the participants were watching the same film, they were more turned on than during the first viewing.

The reasons for this aren't fully understood, but researchers believe the art of meditation allows you to 'turn off' the active part of your brain and focus on specific feelings and sensations instead.

It took some research to get closer to the actual research. It turns out it's not as frivolous as it sounds.

In this interview, researcher Lori Brotto of  the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, a Buddhist meditator herself, describes how she uses mindfulness meditation to help women who are unable to have intercourse because of actual or anticipated pain.

...in the last seven years we’ve carried out at least three studies now adapting the mindfulness based intervention to gynaecologic cancer survivors who we know have a high incidence of sexual side-effects following treatment. And most recently we’ve looked at either three-session or four-session mindfulness intervention versus a wait-list control group, or an education only control group. And women will report improvements in their level of sexual desire, their level of sexual arousal; we also measure the physiological sexual arousal response. We have women come into our lab, we expose them to some short video clips, neutral and erotic video clips and we measure their sexual arousal response  before and after treatment. And not only do we see an increase in the genital arousal response but we also see more agreement between the genital response and women’s self-report of being sexually aroused. So it seems that their mind and their body is more in unison following the intervention.
I find that lovely and not at all the sort of tawdry activity that's implied by putting meditation on the Sex Tip of the Day list.

If you're curious about meditation and sex drive, you could try a long retreat and see for yourself.

Or check out Orgasmic Meditation. According to an instructor, "It’s a partnered practice, a timed 15-minute meditation. The woman lays down, nude from the waist down, and her partner [massages her]. There’s no goal: Both partners are feeling what’s happening in their bodies and sensations as they are in contact with the most sensitive part of the human body."